Beverly Weston (Sam Shepard) disappears, Violet, his wife (Meryl Streep) calls the family to Osage County.
I believe this could be the start of any ordinary scenario, however Tracy Letts, wrote her play, August: Osage County, so that family, reunited, is yet torn apart.
John Wells, the director, kept the theatrical aspect for the movie, perfectly conveyed by the acting of its two most amazing actresses: Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts.
We observe several elements of theater: a lot of gesture, loud voices coming at each other (not letting us understand a thing sometimes), and a very confined decor. Indeed, the film takes place in specific rooms of the house, quickly filled up with the family members, and even though, the house is in the middle of vast plains, it is ignored by the camera.
So here we are, stuck, with crazy people, about to kill each other, with no way of escaping. If the storyline is a déjà-vu; american family, where nobody is really close to each other, and madness and mystery govern, there is material. When I say to material I am talking about the actors performances and the music.
Let’s take the character of Barbara Fordham (Julia Roberts), married to Bill (Ewan McGregor), although, separated (but not divorced), she has a daughter of fourteen years old, Jean (Abigail Breslin), who smokes pot, and isn’t really open to discussion. Barbara is tired, and even though she tries her best to do the right thing every time, she has a tendency of loosing it, and causing pain around her. Impulsive, she ends up looking like her mother, whereas it wasn’t her goal.
Lets speak now about Violet; she has mouth-cancer, and is frequently, for not saying always, high on pills, her husband disappears, her daughters are living away, and she is the result of constant abandon. She has two other daughters of forty something years old, Ivy (Julianne Nicholson) who isn’t married yet, and Karen (Juliette Lewis) who’s dating a three-times-divorced rich guy. They are quite disconnected, and naive, and those two characteristics prevent them from freaking out. Unlike Barbara, and her mother, knowing how this family works, they are applying the ostrich policy.
Nevertheless, all the characters are lost, and surrounded by madness, that is initially trigged by lots of pain. That’s why, we, spectators, are quite confused, concerning whether we should laugh or cry at some scenes. Concerning whether we are looking a comedy or a tragedy. And here comes into action, the music.
Music has a big part in the movie, however we may never notice it. And this is simple: there’s a scene, intrigued, you watch, wait to see what happens next, and a music comes, sad or not, you combined the two, and start feeling something, feeling sadness, feeling the deep sadness that is eating the characters, where no one has the right to happiness. But that doesn’t last long, we are quickly moving on to something else.
And when there’s no music, and just them screaming at each other, or laughing sarcastically, we laugh two, and find that comic.
The story isn’t a strong one, but everything else made it important.
August: Osage County is as good as if the play was being filmed.