Drama underpinned by family love

COMMITTED CAST: Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts in August Osage County.
COMMITTED CAST: Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts in August Osage County.

August: Osage County. Starring Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Juliette Lewis, Julianne Nicholson, Margo Martindale, Chris Cooper, Sam Shepard, Ewan McGregor, Benedict Cumberbatch, Abigail Breslin, Dermot Mulroney; directed by John Wells

August: Osage County opens with a man interviewing his sick wife's new nurse. She has cancer, he explains, and she's dependent on pills.

The wife (Meryl Streep) appears, spectacularly high, and everything goes downhill from there.

When the husband, Beverly (Sam Shepard) goes missing, the family gathers. His body is found in the local lake, and that's just the beginning of secrets, lies and family disasters.

August: Osage County is based on a play by Tracey Letts and its theatrical origins can be seen in the extensive dialogue, which still crackles along at a great pace.

Meryl Streep is, as always, fabulous as the pill-addicted, cancer-suffering matriarch of the family, chewing scenery and offering emotional fragility with equal intensity.

Julia Roberts holds up well as the eldest of the three daughters of the family, struggling with her own issues as well as her mother.

It's a dinner-table drama, where the funeral of a beloved father leads to some unsavoury revelations and a truly epic battle between Violet (Streep) and Barbara (Roberts).

Underpinning that, however, there is a strong and solid core of familial love. There's a lovely sister- bonding scene between Violet and her sister Mattie Fae (Margo Martindale), which serves to show that no matter what secrets may be hiding in the closet (and there are a couple of doozies) that what really matters is the bonds of family.

August: Osage County is very Southern Gothic in a way - I half-expected a cameo from Tennessee Williams - and it's very much the story of the women of the family, with the men taking supporting roles.

The best of the movie is when Violet and Barbara are interacting, their strongly adverserial relationship very much at the heart of the family, and of the story of the film, with the other characters orbiting their chaos.

August: Osage County isn't for the faint-hearted - there's a lot of swearing, and it's fiercely in your face, but having said that, it's absolutely worth seeing.

The Southland Times