There's Just Too Much Streep in August: Osage County

There's Just Too Much Streep in <i>August: Osage County</i>
Photo by Claire Folger - © 2013 - The Weinstein Company. All Rights Reserved.
Meryl Streep as Vi Weston, the pill-gobbling matriarch of an Oklahoma plains family who can't open her mouth without some version of her idea of the truth popping out.

Without big truth-telling scenes, grand, great-lady, Meryl Streep-type actors would be out of work. Hell, Meryl Streep would be out of work. But for now, at least, August: Osage County, John Wells's film adaptation of Tracy Letts's Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway hit, keeps her out of the bread line.

Vi rules the roost, just as Streep rules the scene.

Streep plays Vi Weston, the pill-gobbling matriarch of an Oklahoma plains family who can't open her mouth without some version of her idea of the truth popping out: Women get uglier as they age; children who leave home to lead their own lives are ungrateful wretches; refusing to wear makeup makes a woman look like a lesbian; and so forth. In the big dinner-table scene — because that's where the biggest truth bombs always get dropped — Vi, hopped up on pills, presides over her motley brood with cruel, woozy authority, her terrible mouth motoring on. Vi rules the roost, just as Streep rules the scene. No other performer in August: Osage County — not Julia Roberts, not Chris Cooper, not Ewan McGregor — can get in her way. Her gaze vaporizes all other actors on contact. If she were a Batman villain, she'd be called The Actress.

Admittedly, August: Osage County is a comedy, a bleak one, and that's an arena in which Streep usually thrives: She's a brilliant comic actress, terrific even in otherwise undistinguished pictures like Julie & Julia, perhaps because those roles most effectively expose some otherwise hidden vulnerability, kicking something loose in her. August: Osage County, however, bitterly funny in some places and numbingly earnest in others, is just too much Streep. But all is not lost. Some of her fellow actors are resourceful enough to reconstruct themselves after being obliterated.

Meryl Streep, Margo Martindale and Julianne Nicholson.
Photo by Claire Folger - © 2013 - The Weinstein Company. All Rights Reserved.
Meryl Streep, Margo Martindale and Julianne Nicholson.

Location Info

Map

AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13‎

1998 Broadway
New York, NY 10023

Category: Movie Theaters

Region: West 60s

Regal Union Square Stadium 14

850 Broadway
New York, NY 10003

Category: Movie Theaters

Region: Union Square

Details

August: Osage County
Directed by John Wells
The Weinstein Company
Opens December 27, AMC Loews Lincoln Square and Regal Union Square



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The movie opens with a brief, intriguing scene in which Vi's husband, Bev, a boozehound poet played by a wonderfully grizzled Sam Shepard, appears to be explaining the simple intricacies of his marriage ("My wife takes pills, I drink") in voiceover. It turns out he's really giving the 411 to the young woman, Johnna (the blessedly understated Misty Upham), he's just hired to look after the house and after Vi. Because Vi, in addition to being a holy terror scarred by a terrible childhood, has mouth cancer. Suddenly, she swans into the room, her hair reduced by chemo to a Joan of Arc caplet of stubble, and begins berating Johnna seemingly for sport. "Are you an Injun?" she asks. (Johnna, as it turns out, is Cheyenne.) Streep has arrived, drifting around the room with her no-makeup face and droopy turtleneck. Acting! Can't you just smell it?

But then Bev mysteriously disappears, and the couple's three children and their attendant spouses and boyfriends descend upon the dark, oppressive Weston house: Those include Roberts's Barbara, the daughter who escaped the family clutches and moved to Colorado with her poet husband, Bill (McGregor, looking a little miserable in his pressed Dockers); Julianne Nicholson's Ivy, the "plain" daughter who stayed at home but who clearly yearns for something more; and the third daughter, Juliette Lewis's flaky, self-absorbed Karen, toting along a sleazy new fiancé, Steve (Dermot Mulroney). Other relations follow: Vi's sister, brother-in-law, and nephew (Margo Martindale, Cooper, and Benedict Cumberbatch), all of whom proceed to poke at or ignore one another when they're not pouring all their energy into avoiding Streep's Eye of Sauron at the head of the dinner table. Somewhere in the last third, a big secret — which is something like a regular old truth, only bigger — pops out, stunning all those who don't already know it.

For a film version of a play, always a tricky proposition, August: Osage County is effective enough. Wells (The Company Men) and cinematographer Adriano Goldman give the movie a strong sense of place: At one point, Roberts's Barbara, riding in a car's passenger seat, reflects on the cruel, dull beauty of the plains, and we know just what she's talking about as we see them rolling by, looking deceptively innocuous. And every supporting actor here rallies, though some seem frozen by the movie's unapologetically stagey dialogue. At one point, Roberts delivers a soliloquy ending with the line, "Thank God we can't read the future — we'd never get out of bed," and you can almost see an imaginary casting director out there in an empty house, wearing reading glasses on a chain and saying crisply, "Thank you, Miss Roberts, we'll be in touch."

Still, Roberts comes off as the most relaxed performer here, the one who keeps pulling the story back into the territory of movies. She has the face, and the presence, for it: bone structure that fills up the frame but doesn't knock it out of joint, an easy way of laughing that can also betray depths of bitterness, and those impossibly liquid eyes. Roberts clearly works hard, but unlike She Who Must Not Be Named, she makes it look easy. She'll never be a great-lady actress, but she at least gives us something to watch. Sometimes it's a relief to escape all that truth.

 
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23 comments
singerjohn321
singerjohn321

Finally, a writer with the courage to say what no one on the post understands. There are great actors, there are great performances. She has given many. Not this one.

polhemus
polhemus

August: Osage, with the in-over-her-head movie-star Juiia Roberts, is a flawed movie, but it has (despite brain-dead critics critics) some of the greatest screen moments of Streep, the greatest movie actor of all time..Do anything to see it!

polhemus
polhemus

ccomparing acting to baseball, Julia Roberts is to Meryl Streep what my little-league grandson is to Barry Bonds

moaninlow
moaninlow

Are you kidding?  I felt there wasn't enough Streep!  A 11 season TV series of 23 hourly shows per season starring Streep as Vi insulting famous guests in cameo appearances would have been more to my liking.  She simply just didn't have enough screen time in August: Osage County to do the role justice.

   

Eana
Eana

There's no such thing as "TOO MUCH STREEP"in the movie!!! You better watch the play yet before you comment! You better blame the script writer on this not MERYL! FGS!

outinthestreetfilms
outinthestreetfilms

Julianne Nicholson is amazing.  Really the entire cast is wonderful.  It seemed a bit lagging in places due to the lack of being cinematic in scenes meant for the stage, I think.  You'd have to write a different script to get around that, much like Blue Jasmine might be considered a film version of Streetcar.  But people want to see the play on the screen.  So that's what they get. 

Lu Gram
Lu Gram

Maybe,but Lady Streep is divine in ANYTHING she does.

Jorge Perez
Jorge Perez

that movie fucking SUCKS. Not snark. For real. Like a bad lifetime movie.

Cyndi Lou Emmons
Cyndi Lou Emmons

She is an authentic person, talented actress, and a class act.

med_127
med_127

There is just way too much of you in this article! Whoever wrote this obviously has NO clue what great acting is. Meryl Streep is the greatest actress to ever live. There can never be enough Streep. Tracy Letts said in an interview that Streep nailed it perfect for what he had in mind for Violet. And she had the lead part....so no **** that she is going to be in it a lot. Sheesh...this is a stupid article.

mackjay
mackjay

You know what? The reviewer actually saw the movie and she has a right to her opinion. I find the review amusing and informative. She dares to criticize Streep..so what? Have we descended to the childish point where you can't say anything negative about an actor or a performance? I appreciate the reviewer's honesty. I'll form my own opinion about the movie when I see it. 


Natali Wind
Natali Wind

"Too much Streep"?! WTF?! There's no such thing!

stereoculturesociety
stereoculturesociety

You know what, this writer is pathetic. Clearly, this person has no idea what it takes to do what Meryl does, at the level she does, for as long as she has. You want to castigate her for doing her job better than anybody else? Screw you. Sorry, but this piece really made me angry. 


She is the finest actress this country has ever produced and to be performing at this level in the twilight of her career is a monumental achievement. I don't believe for one hot second that she's anything less than she has ever been: Our Lady Meryl. Show her the respect she deserves or spend your time writing Wes Andersen reviews. Either way, grow up. 

singerjohn321
singerjohn321

@polhemusShows you how poor Streep was in this film. David slinging Goliath-scene-chewing Streep.

hkguy
hkguy

@med_127 He got a load of money for the movie rights, more for the script and probably has points. What's he supposed to say, she sucked? 

Binkconn
Binkconn

@mackjay Good for you. I hate commenters who demand a reviewer not have any opinon that doesn't conform to the norm. 'Trolling' is the newspeak for censorship.

 

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