Review for August: Osage County

8 / 10


This was next in my desire to watch a film that I didn’t want to watch, or more accurately would never normally choose to watch. After all, a family drama centred on a matriarchy set in Oklahoma at the height of summer, based on a stage play is so far out of my comfort zone that it might as well be one of those lucky dip discs I used to get as a reviewer once upon a time. It’s pretty much the same thing, an opportunistic drop of change in a bargain store where I spotted a movie with a seriously heavy-weight cast led by the legendary Meryl Streep, and a couple of Oscar nominations as well. Then again, the movie does have the Weinsteins’ paw prints all over it.

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Beverly Weston is an acclaimed poet and self-confessed alcoholic who lives with his wife Violet in rural Oklahoma. Violet has cancer and is addicted to prescription medication, so it’s not the happiest of homes. It gets even more strained when a family emergency brings the Weston clan together, their three daughters and their families, as well as Violet’s sister and her family, and some truths are unearthed that were better left buried.

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The Disc

August: Osage County gets a 2.40:1 widescreen 1080p transfer with DTS-HD MA 5.1 Surround English and optional HOH subtitles. The image is clear and sharp, although colour graded to within an inch of being full on sepia. Detail levels are good, although there might be a smidge of black crush here and there. It’s a combination of nice sets and locations, with the theatre origins present in the mostly interior scenes, but broken up with the epic scope of the Oklahoma exteriors. We’re in Western territory here, with plenty of sweeping plains and rural landscapes. The audio is fine, with this being a dialogue focused film. There is a bit of surround presence though, mostly felt in the sparsely used music.

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You get one disc in a BD Amaray, which autoplays trailers for American Hustle, I, Frankenstein, Her, and Transcendence before booting to an animated menu.

On the disc you’ll find a commentary from director John Wells, and cinematographer Adriano Goldman.

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The Making of August: Osage County is a patchwork affair which lasts 19:44.

There are 13 Deleted Scenes running to 21:21, although you can watch 6 of them (11:57) with the audio commentary.

On Writing with Tracy Letts lasts 7:39.

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Where’s the line between a soap opera and an epic, Oscar nominated family drama? When you look at the themes and the story of August: Osage County, this could be any late evening soap opera, as the characters find the space to air their dirty linen, and a family falls apart with a self-destructive energy. But you get an actors’ master-class with stars like Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Juliette Lewis and Benedict Cumberbatch, and you have writing that is delightfully meaty, dark, funny, tragic, heart-wrenching, and you have something which is to soap opera what fine wine is to grape juice. August: Osage County is really compelling, a film that I just couldn’t turn away from.

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It is of course led by that powerhouse performance by Meryl Streep as Violet Weston, the matriarch of the clan who has reached that point in her life where she has no time for diplomacy or tact. She’s going to say it as she sees it, no matter the consequences, although fuelled by a drug addiction, her judgement is wayward to say the least. And everyone in this family has issues. Daughter Barbara’s marriage is falling apart, and she has to deal with a teenage daughter who’s acting up. Karen has picked up a fiancé who drives fast cars and is going places, and expects that her dreams are coming true even as she plummets towards middle age, and eternally single Ivy has secretly fallen in love with the wrong guy in so many ways.

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Violet’s sister Mattie Fae competes with her older sister in irascibility, and seemingly has no time for her own son Little Charlie, which perplexes her plain-talking and kind-hearted husband Charlie no end. And this family collides at this unwanted reunion in disastrous fashion as truths are told that really shouldn’t have been, and frustrations boil over in the hot Oklahoma summer.

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There are some fundamental truths in August: Osage County that we can all recognise when it comes to families. You can choose your friends after all... There’s something in the story that is so resonant when it comes to genetics, heredity and being shaped by our upbringings. There is so much going on in this story, but at the heart of it is the relationship between mother and daughter, Violet and Barbara (Julia Roberts) which drives the energy of the film in a fascinating and compelling way. It’s a film well worth watching, and gets a decent presentation on this Blu-ray.

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