August: Osage County is a sad and depressing film. The whole demeanor of the film is sombre, dry and lack colour, like the setting, decor, costume, and people. Everything lingers with unhappiness, complimenting the dialogue.
Barbara (Julia Roberts) receives a phone call simply saying her father Beverly (Sam Shepard) has walked away… again. The whole family is called and make their way in dribs and drabs to the very hot Pawhuska, Oklahoma home. No one seems too alarmed as he has done this before, and is more concern keeping Violet (Meryl Streep) calm. However, after five days pass, once school lover, now turned sheriff, calls Barbara aside with sombre news. Beverly’s boat, along with his body, was found on the lake. The cause of death is drowning, presumed a suicide. Not farfetched for a alcoholic poet with a drug addicted cancer wife. Yes, it is a hostile and depressing setting. The following few days rip open the closet of this very dysfunctional family, and let the bones fall where they may.
Violet’s sister, Mattie Fae ( Margo Martindale) shares her sister condescending nature, always belittling her son, revered to the whole family as Little Charles. Charles (Benedict Cumberbatch) is nothing but a sweet and sensitive soul, unfortunately his status isn’t aided by his incestuous relationship with Violet’s middle child, his cousin Ivy (Julianne Nicholson) nor him missing the funeral. A very touching moment between father Charles Aiken (Chris Cooper) and son, at the bus stop offers one of the few scenes in the film where the intense need for recognition and love is given. Something everyone in this family longs for but will never voice nor show or even admit to themselves.
August: Osage County definitely does not have an enjoyable or entertaining story. You have to look past the large star cast and see the pain, and why it is there. Every family members performance reveals a deep-seated pain, resentment and longing. Although it is emotionally draining, the film never drags. It is all about the acting, which is probably why it is best suited for stage. Along with the star cast, the soundtrack features some big names too; Bon Iver, Eric Clapton, Kings of Leon, Adam Taylor and Anibal Kerpel are in the mix.
Although you most probably will feel shell-shocked and in need of a hug at the end of it, it’s not all attacks and sadness here. There are some witty moments to lighten the mood of a otherwise broken American family. As the film’s byline reads, “Misery loves family”.