August: Osage County – 3.5/5 – Movie Reviews by Ry!

August Osage CountyAugust: Osage County – 3.5/5 – Family; it is what digs deep into anyone.  When it comes to films that use ‘family’ as the premise or theme, they are one’s that usually circulate with a ‘feel good’ mentality or comical hijinx.  Sometimes, when a film takes a different direction and infuses family with a darker tone, you get a film that is poignant and moving through the dire situation.  This is a film that has ‘family’ as its main focus with its ‘theme’, but one that infuses it with darker tones.  With the darker feeling, it gives the film a perspective that is unique and self indulging.  With some conflicting and convenient directing choices in the second half, August: Osage County as a whole is a film that will break some hearts, but find proof in the meaning of family.

Premise: After a tragedy unfolds; we get a look at the lives of the Weston family.  Along the way, we see how those paths diverged into this family crisis, showing what family is to some, and what it means to others.

This film is filled with a who’s who of great actors and actresses.    The list goes like this:

Meryl Steep as Violet Weston

Julia Roberts as Barbara Weston

Chris Cooper as Charlie Aiken

Ewan McGregor as Bill Fordham

Margo Martindale as Mattie Fae Aiken

Sam Shepard as Beverly Weston

Dermot Mulroney as Steve Huberbrecht

Julianne Nicholson as Ivy Weston

Juliette Lewis as Karen Weston

Abigail Breslin as Jean Fordham

Benedict Cumberbatch as Little Charles Aiken

This list of people would blow any one film out of the water.  The great thing about this big cast is that all of these people do a fantastic job in creating characters that are real and believable.  Each of them brings a down-to-earth approach to each of their roles.  With that approach, there is an endearing sense to each of the characters, helping to create distinct personality for each of them.  They stand out within the whole ‘family’ aspect, as each helps provide a real kindred spirit to both themselves and the movie.  No matter what the tone shifts to through the film’s progression, the acting is superb as you feel some kind of emotion; one way or another.  Out of this big cast, the two stand outs are Julia Robert’s as Barbara Weston and Meryl Streep as Violet Weston.  Both these actresses help create hard strung women; each of them having their own complex personalities, which makes them standout and command the film when they are on screen.  No matter if they are by themselves or interacting with the rest of the cast, they soothe in their delivery and help provide a real deep, gripping sensation in each line they speak.  The dialogue has a raw intensity that you feel a real purpose to their own struggles they have with this family.  Outside of this big cast, you really don’t have a very strong support; but that is a good thing.  The focus of the film is on the family, and that is where it should stay.

The direction of this film follows a path that is fragmented but focused.  This statement might not make sense, but watching this film you see how this ‘disarray’ feeling is wonderfully exploited through a focus on family frantic behavior and dealing with hardship of family.  Through this, you get a very strong touch of that exploitation of self perseverance.  Through the satirical first half, this style works.  In the beginning, we are introduced to the heads Weston family; the mother (Violet) and father (Beverly).  A typical prologue approach and the intro to films conflict leads to a dire situation that brings the rest of the family misfits back home.  All of them gather at the house in Oklahoma, where the family antics start to ensue.   Through dark humor, witty dialogue and some raw appeal of the characters, we are shown a perspective of both deep characterization of self combined with family.  Each revelation brings a feeling of hardship, truth and choice into the fray for each of the family members.  Once we get past the ‘family dinner’, the satirical nature of the film turns begins to dig deep within ‘family’ and its affect on the human psyche, starting a shift in tone.  Through this second half, we start to get a focus where each character starts to have a monologue of sorts.  In each situation, we get the following:

A ‘life’ meaningful exposition

Argument ensues

Some validation with the aspect of change and choice

With each situation, the film grows from a satirical look at family to a darker toned film focused on the aftermath of the fragility of family.  The meaning begins to grip deeply, but this also shifts the fragment poignancy you have in the direction to convenient circumstance.  It also brings the film down from what ‘meaning’ it had in the beginning to just another field day of generalizing purpose over storytelling.  You still have some enjoyment this far into the film, but the dulling of the reparative scenario (stated above) makes the enjoyment dim.  Once the film comes to its climax, it winds back to the feeling of family and self, which presents a question that most of us don’t want to answer.  Once the film sheds this rhetorical statement, it ends abruptly.  There is no rhyme or reason to the end, it just leaves you yearning for a real ‘completeness’ to the Weston family stories.

The cinematography of the film is simplistic but wondrous.  In that simplistic view of rural Oklahoma and the household of the Weston’s, you have an atmospheric sense when moving through this family’s fragile presence.  Even when the film grows darker, the homely sense keeps you focused and brings a glimpse into a ‘reality’ that is not too far from your own home.  The score mimic’s the visuals very well, creating a sense of awe; soothing in a sensation that contrasts with the behavior of the characters.  In that contrast, it keeps you ‘touched’ even when the film drags or dips into convenient plot progression.

Overall, August: Osage County is a great film that delves deep into family and self revelation, but does stagnant in the second half with convenience and otherwise an unfulfilled ending.  There is great acting across the board, along with great use of camera and score.  If you’re looking for something other than your typical blockbuster, this is the film for you.

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