This review was written last year after seeing this film, but is being published here for the first time in my new essay collection titled…"What a Piece of Garbage".
"August: Osage County" is a family drama which features two of my favorite actors in the world, Meryl Streep and Chris Cooper. I could literally enjoy watching them do anything…well... anything except this. This is a film with a stellar and accomplished cast, including Julia Roberts, Ewen McGregor, Julianne Nicholson, Juliette Lewis and Sam Shepard among many others. It is based on a Tony award and pulitzer prize winning play of the same name, and yet, it is not a good movie at all. In fact, it is a mess. The problem isn't the cast, or the script, the problem is the director, or should I say the lack of a director. What I found so frustrating about this film is that I couldn't help but wonder if a better director couldn't have made it a really worth while film. Sadly we will never know.
To be fair, I saw the play when it was in Los Angeles a few years ago and I didn't like the play either. The problem with seeing a play in Los Angeles is that the audience feels like they are at a 'live studio audience' taping of "Two and a Half Men" or "Happy Days" or something and are desperate for any opportunity to laugh. L.A. audiences turn everything into a comedy, and the actors onstage end up trying to push for laughs and the whole rhythm and intent of the play gets sidetracked while the slack jawed dopes in the audience yuck it up. In all honesty, I've had the same experience in New York, so I can't just blame the city of Angels, the truth is the blame lies with the human race, or at least the minority population of it that attends live theater. Regardless of my feelings about the play, the film is simply put, not well made. The way it is shot makes it look like a tv show, a very special episode of "Rosanne" or something like that. The performances are lost under the rudderless direction, which is a shame because great actors like these need to have a director who can highlight their great work, not obfuscate it.
In conclusion, "August: Osage County" is not worth your time, even if you're just looking to steal something great from Meryl Streep.