August Osage County stars Meryl Streep as Violet Weston, the unapologetically flawed matriarch of the Weston Family. When we first meet Violet and husband Beverly Weston we are introduced to a couple that each struggle with their own demons....Violet is stricken with cancer and copes by heavily medicating herself and Beverly, a writer and seemingly tortured soul prefers to numb his pain with alcohol. After Beverly sadly takes his own life the Weston daughters; Barbara (Julia Roberts), Ivy (Julianne Nicholson) and Karen (Juliette Lewis) return to their childhood home in Oklahoma for their father’s funeral. What starts out as a reunion of sorts then quickly deteriorates into utter madness and all hells breaks loose as the various personalities within the family clash.
Though I found the story slow to begin with this is forgiven as there are many characters to meet and sub plots to establish. Each member of the Weston family harbours their own problems and issues and each seemingly has an inability to confront or understand the truths that lie behind their own personal struggles. Each of the Weston daughters have somehow (we assume as a consequence of their not entirely emotionally stable upbringing) landed themselves in dire predicaments with their respective partners and families and all the sordid details spill out over the course of their visit. Once the drama starts it takes off on a crazy trajectory and things quickly become chaotic and confronting and even uncomfortably funny at times. Meryl Streep chews the scenery a bit as the twisted and bitter Violet, so much so that her exaggerated mannerisms at times appear grotesque, making her at times frightening to watch. Julia Roberts on the other hand gives a strong but controlled performance as the formidable eldest daughter who has enough hutzpah to confront her mother’s wrath. The supporting male cast, Chris Cooper, Ewan McGregor, Benedict Cumberbatch and Dermot Mulroney do their bit for the story arch but it is the female characters that take the lead in this dysfunctional family drama. Though at first it is easy to dismiss these women as being selfish and self centred and therefore not deserving of our sympathy there is enough complexity in their stories to implore one to try and understand and even feel for them.
August Osage County is not viewing for the faint hearted, but it is worth sitting through from start to finish. The dialogue packs a punch and characters as alien as they may appear at times in their crassness are complex and utterly entertaining.....and if nothing else this story reminds me to be greatful for having a boring ‘normal’ family.