Streep and Roberts Wrestle in August Osage County, a powerful and seductive movie. Set in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, Meryl plays Violet Weston, the matriarch of the Weston clan. A tragedy brings her three daughters and their assorted men and child to the family home. The setting is magnificent, with the plains stretching out on either side of an unpaved, gravel road.
The acting ensemble is seamless, starting with an unshaven Sam Shepard, an alcoholic Beverly Weston married to Violet. Then in comes Chris Cooper, the amiable brother-in-law married to the demeaning Mattie Fae Aiken. Julia Roberts, Juliette Lewis, Dermot Mulroney, Ewan McGregor, Abigail Breslin, Benedict Cumberbatch, Julianne Nicholson and Margo Martindale as Mattie Fae, all contribute to the success of August Osage County.
Some would describe this movie as a Jerry Springer episode, complete with family wrestling matches, incestuous relationships and shovels on backsides, but the film goes much deeper than family squabbles. In a sense, the Westons are the epitome of the midwestern magic in making the truth disappear. The pain and trauma show as masks fall off, and the competition to be named most likely to have PTSD is on full speed ahead. Violet is most likely to succeed and pronounces that she is just doing a little “truth-telling” when she excoriates everyone at the post-funeral dinner table.
Yes, Meryl and Julia wrestling on the floor in August Osage County is a sight for sore eyes. It does not get much better than two exceptional actresses rolling around on the living room floor. Streep’s perfect Oklahoma accent has been missed since her role in Silkwood.
Streep’s Violet proves to be a pill-popping, bitter mother of three daughters who just don’t quite measure up, and her cynical rhetoric is not to be interrupted. Margo Martindale plays Mattie Fae, Violet’s sister, who is hilarious and has a soul tinged with sadness. She demeans her son, “Little Charles,” and Mattie Fae has a family secret of her own.
Roberts is the oldest sister, who has her own demons to face in her marriage and the constant fights surrounding their fourteen year old daughter, Jean, played by Abigail Breslin. Barbara Weston is hesitant to come back into the tornado of her mother’s making, but manages to keep her emotions in until the wrestling match of the century.
Chris Cooper does a great job of peacemaker, and stands up to his wife when she puts her own son down. Cumberbatch’s “Little Charlie” is a tortured soul, and his love interest remains unannounced. Cooper shows acceptance to a son who is a bit of the black sheep of the family.
Misty Upham plays a gentle but firm presence in the household after Beverly Weston hires her to take care of Violet in his absence. Violet insists on calling her “that Indian”, while the rest of the new generation take umbrage with her political non-correctness.
If the movie viewer catches Violet Weston eating anything during any mealtime, they should be awarded a medal of observance. With a cigarette eternally clutched in her fingers, Violet puffs smoke in between popping pills.
The upshot is that August Osage County is true to its monstrous self. An exaggeration that only Oklahoma folks recognize as a possibility and a midwestern tale of truth.
With Streep and Roberts rolling around the floor in a wrestling match in August Osage County, it cannot be duplicated.
By Lisa M Pickering