Wednesday, January 22, 2014


Violet, keeping busy by alienating her daughters.
This afternoon, with just seven or eight lonely degrees circulating among all the counties in Maine, I sought warmth and distraction in a darkened movie theater and I'm glad I did. August: Osage County, a depiction of dastardly doings in an outrageously dysfunctional family, was a standout for several reasons, not the least of which was clarifying that the "dysfunctional" family I remember from my own childhood was actually closer to a tribe of cuddly forest creatures in a Disney cartoon. I mean really--hold on to your hat for this one.

On the plus side, everyone attached to this film adaptation of the award-winning Broadway play deserves an Oscar for Best Whatever. Led by the fabulous Meryl Streep, who only gets better with age and once again stuns you with her mesmerizing performance as the pill-popping matriarch, Violet, the ensemble includes Chris Cooper, Julia Roberts, Sam Shepard, Juliette Lewis, Dermot Mulroney, Ewan McGregor and Benedict Cumberbatch. Each of them deserved a standing ovation at the end. Besides the actors, the Director, Art Director, Cinematographer, Set Designer and Prop Master also deserve kudos for the unceasingly lovely landscapes that give way to darkened interiors full of interesting objects. It's all quite eye-popping.

But despite the good stuff, be forewarned: these are not happy campers. I won't spill the beans, but I left the theater with one particular spoken line seared into my brain: "It's a good thing we can't see into the future, or none of us would ever get out of bed." That gives you some idea of the violence, hatred, duplicity and histrionics that slam you in the face non-stop from the get-go. And just when you think things can't possibly get any worse, they do.

Still, the film is satisfying and even fun in some twisted way. Maybe because it's not your family, allowing you to feel good about yourself. (Heck, you might even call Mom and Dad afterwards to thank them for being so nice.) But I couldn't help wondering about Tracy Letts, the playwright who won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for this work. I hope he just has a vivid imagination because I'd hate to think any of this stuff really happened to anyone.

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