The world has been swarming with problem-loaded families almost for as long as the Earth has been revolving around the Sun and rotating around its own axis. But for all the amount of problems one sole family can possess, it is the Westons’ that seem to own the record by a far margin. John Wells, director of August: Osage County brings Tracy Letts’ eponymous Pulitzer Prize awarded play on-screen and introduces us to the nuttiest family in the Universe – a fictional one, I pray.
The result is explosively hilarious. Though clearly a family drama founded on dark secrets that are never truly kept, unfaithfulness, divorce, suicide, inbreeding, addiction, and whatever other worldly problem you can think of, the portrayal is never tragic, but farcical. Letts has the unique gift of caricaturing the dramatic and making it so much fun. Wells and the entire cast not only respect, but elevate the originality of the play’s ideas and words, making the movie beautifully grotesque.
Meryl Streep is a cancer-hit drug-addict and above all spiteful mother who issues sarcastic, offensive remarks with every breath she takes, in or out. Ironically, Letts gives her mouth cancer. Julia Roberts is the stern, mature and control-freak daughter who decides to take the family’s problems upon her and hence turns into a bitter, acid woman, just like the mother she runs away from. These two massively talented actors undoubtedly lead the game. Almost hairless and purposefully made to look “ugly”, Meryl Streep acts an exquisitely funny opening scene, so naturally interpreting the drug-crazed woman who I had a hard time believing she was not de facto under the influence. While Julia Roberts is fascinating in her role even when she appears in pyjamas and talks about fish. Mostly then.
The film has no intention of preaching morality lessons: this is not a case study of the American family by excellence, nor is it ever finger-pointing to types of human behaviour or aims at being judgemental. August: Osage County is entirely focused on the characters’ play, which is truly high-calibre. The fucked-up family background is not even important, it merely provides the characters with the playground on which they can go wild and neurotic and shine through remarkable performances and deliciously sarcastic dialogues. August: Osage County is a random topic assigned to a random family which everyone should be grateful is not theirs, backed-up by a refreshingly smart script and act. It could have stayed a theatre play. It turned out a sparkling movie, too. So much the better.