Perhaps the reference is lost to the British viewer but all the title needs to tell you is that August in Osage County is hot. The heat is stifling, and the dark manor house that is home to the family in this wonderful drama doesn’t offer any respite. Indeed, it and it’s contents are left to fester until it boils over in a torrent of emotion that everyone knew was coming…
Family dramas are often worthy Oscar bait, and of course, with Meryl Streep as the matriarch, this film is no exception. Perhaps she’ll be eclipsed this year (Cate Blanchett’s performance in Blue Jasmine is mesmerising) but that shouldn’t overshadow the complete dedication with which she throws herself into this role once again. A drug-addled, foul-mouthed bitter old woman, the death of her husband’s prompts the arrival of her three daughters, and she’s got no qualms about talking to them straight. ‘Truth telling’ as she calls it. This is a film about truths, how we do our best to ignore them, and yet still come to accept that they’re there. There’s a bitter quality to the whole film and it’s refreshing- there is no kiss-and-make-up. There’s simply acceptance that family life is rough around the edges and there’s nothing you can do about it.
This film’s strength lies in the cast, with outstanding performances from all. Streep is phenomenal, as is Julia Robert’s turn as stoic, eldest daughter Barbara. She’s a worthy adversary for Streep but neither does it feel that one outshines the other. This is down to the strength of the writing. Adapted from her own play, Tracy Letts has created not only one, but four fantastic roles for women. The entire spectrum of womanhood is displayed here, from Juliette Lewis’ bubbly Karen to Julianne Nicholson’s quiet, kind hearted Ivy. Each sister has their own way of dealing with the family trauma and it’s refreshing to see none of them singled out and punished for their decisions- any more than they all are.
There are points when the film suffers from being a little too obvious. There’s no need to shout what is clearly being shown, and perhaps that’s from the film’s theatre roots. Still, this adaptation is wonderful, welcome addition to this year’s Oscar list, and while perhaps it won’t find itself winning, it is definitely one that should not be overlooked.