August: Osage County
Director: John Wells
Combing a collection of superstars slumming for awards, a TV director, and single location family dinner setting, August: Osage County sounds like easy awards bait worth dreading. That is unless you recognize the writer: Tracy Letts. He’s the man whose twisted imagination spun Bug and Killer Joe and this movie is based on the play that won him a Pulitzer Prize. Far from a sentimental drama confirming family values, Letts’ story is a vicious little family reunion starring Meryl Streep as a drug-addicted mother whose goal in life is to tear down and emotionally scar her family for her own amusement. The other stars of the film like Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Juliette Lewis, and Benedict Cumberbatch (whose presence was apparently required for any film to qualify as a Gala this year) are more sparring partners than anything else.
The film and story aren’t nearly as overtly subversive as Letts’ previous two play-to-film adaptations. That’s probably why someone like William Friedkin wasn’t invited to direct this time, and while his presence is sincerely missed since John Wells doesn’t offer much in the way of visual dynamics, the film is a chamber piece and Wells’ excellent work with the cast is more important. Letts’ dark streak of humor and uncompromisingly nasty take on human nature remains and drives the film. It’s a harsh film that’s still difficult to shake off despite lacking any as controversial as Killer Joe. It will be an awards contender and deservedly so, but it will also be interesting to see how the crowd who normally show up for Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts movies react to such a cynically unforgiving piece of work. (Phil Brown)
Tuesday, September 10, 11:00am, Visa Screening Room