Based on Tracy Letts Pulitzer Prize winning play, August: Osage County is the kind of drama many actors love to do: thick with dialogue, it gives multiple performers a chance to really chew some scenery. Packed with fighting, crying, drinking, and smoking, it lends itself to moments of great acting, both comic and tragic. At times, August: Osage County is tough to watch, but the work of all the actors makes it a nonetheless riveting experience.
It’s August in Osage County, Oklahoma. Beverly Weston (Sam Shepard) is interviewing a young Native American woman, Johnna (Misty Upham) to be a live-in cook and caregiver for his wife, Violet (Meryl Streep). This is a marriage soaked in misery and addictions. His drug of choice is alcohol. Hers is a variety of pills. Violet is being treated for mouth cancer, though it soon becomes apparent that none of this has stopped her from using her mouth as a lethal weapon. A very bitter woman, Violet thinks nothing of taking her frustrations out on her family.
Shortly after Johnna’s arrival, Beverly turns up missing. The dutiful middle daughter, Ivy (Julianne Nicholson) still lives in town, while the others have long since left: headstrong Barbara (Julia Roberts), her estranged husband Bill (Ewan McGregor) and their fourteen-year old daughter (Abigail Breslin) to Colorado; and trashy Karen (Juliette Lewis) to Florida, where she’s found her latest fiancé, a showy, growth-stunted Corvette-driving clown named Steve (Dermot Mulroney) They all return home to help Violet through this crisis. On hand too, are Violet’s sister Mattie Fae (Margo Martindale and her husband, Charlie (Chris Cooper). Later, they are joined by their son, Little Charles (Benedict Cumberbatch), who’s nothing but a disappointment to Mattie Fae and must constantly be defended by his father.
As events unfold, we learn plenty about the complicated relationships in the Weston family. To rehash it all here, would be to give away a lot of the plot, but suffice to say, much of it goes back to Violet and her acidic tongue. Also as Violet’s mental and physical capabilities wane due to her drug use, Barbara steps in to take charge of things; a role she’s all too familiar with.
The best part of August: Osage County is the opportunity to watch Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts square off as mother and daughter. They hurl scathing insults back and forth and even have a full-fledged wrestling match during a family dinner. Theirs is the central relationship in the story. Thus far this is the finest dramatic role of Julia Roberts’ career. Wearing little makeup, she appears totally realistic and seems to share a real motherly—difficulties and all—bond with Streep. I’d love to see the two actresses work together again. If you’re the type that prefers nice tidy endings, avoid August: Osage County. If you like your films with stark realism, give this one a try.
Presented in 2.35:1 widescreen and using the AVC codec for this 1080p transfer, August Osage County looks very sharp. Image detail is superb throughout and textures are discernible. Colors are reproduced faithfully, with the browns and blacks of the area appearing deep and well saturated. A thin layer of film grain is present throughout, making for a pleasant viewing experience.
The DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track suits the film well. From the music written for the film by Kings of Leon to Eric Clapton’s “Lay Down Sally” things have enough oomph and clarity to make for pleasant listening. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout. There are no hisses, pops, or other audio defects to speak of.
The following extras are available:
- Audio Commentary: Director John Wells and Director of Photography Adriano Goldman discuss several aspects of the film including: the house used, set design, cast and characters, the Oklahoma location and more.
- The Making of August: Osage County (HD, 19:45) On set interviews with cast and crew, as well as some Q & A’s, and press junkets.
- Deleted Scenes (HD, 10:47) Five in all, with optional commentary from Wells and Goldman.
- On Writing with Tracy Letts (HD, 7:39) Letts shares his inspirations for the story, his thoughts on how the actors handled their characters, and what he learned from the experience.
- UV Digital Copy