Movies like August: Osage County are a challenge. On one hand, I can appreciate the craftsmanship behind the production, which clearly displays a level of competence behind the camera. Similarly, the acting is superb. The pedigree alone is enough to create interest, especially when you have the likes of Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor and Benedict Cumberbatch appearing together.
Yet then there’s the other side of the scales – the story – which… well, let’s just say the girlfriend and I were saddened by the loss of our Thursday night. Based on Tracy Letts’ play of the same name, Letts has also written the screenplay of the film adaptation. Somewhere along the line however it seems that nobody told her that movies these days don’t have an intermission.
There’s talking, and lots of it, in a movie that’s 30 minutes too long for what it’s trying to achieve. A note to filmmakers: just because you have great actors performing the material doesn’t mean that you should forget basic editing. At least Tarantino splits up most of his pictures into Chapters, and with radical scene changes to boot (and boy can he write dialogue!).
But I digress; the story here follows the women of the Weston family who reunite after the death of Beverly Weston, the husband of Violet (Streep). Violet is the strong-willed matriarch of the disorderly family, who suffers from mouth cancer and an overpowering drug addiction. It’s a plot that seems primed for a cathartic bonding story – this couldn’t be further from the truth.
There are some surprisingly nihilistic turns here, in a movie that becomes bleaker the further you get into it. Thankfully, there’s also some dark humour speckled throughout – a most welcome reprieve from the otherwise utterly miserable Westons. Ultimately though, it’s a film that operates on the knife-edge of boredom despite the very fine performances on display. It’s in dire need of editing, with scenes going on for far too long and the curtain falling well after the obvious (and superior) end point.
Arm an Editor with a machete, and this bleak drama high on great acting could become a gem.