Friday, January 10, 2014

"August: Osage County" need not be renamed "Oklahoma!"

August, Osage County”, directed by John Wells, and written by Tracy Letts from his own play, comes across as a play on a wide movie screen, set in an Oklahoma county, on the Kansas border, almost entirely within the Osage nation. 
“August” has appeared in several other movie titles, particularly “August Rush” (2007) and then just “August” (reviewed here Nov. 1, 2008). And “Oklahoma” wouldn’t quite work here as a title the musical (which I saw in restored Todd AO at a theater in Columbia Heights, MN, around 2001).  That’s too bad, given that we have movies like “Nebraska” (Nov. 23) and “South Dakota” (upcoming).

As the film starts, the balding blond Weston family matriarch Violet (Meryl Streep) curses up as her husband (Sam Shepard) hires a caregiver (Misty Upham) for her, and she is unwilling to use respectful terminology for native Americans. But soon she puts on her brunette chemotherapy wig and assembles everyone after her husband (Sam Shepard) has suddenly gone on the lam, to be found drowned.  The loud daughter-sisters Barbara, Karen and Ivy (Julia Roberts. Juliette Lewis and Julianne Nicholson) feud, matching their mother for foul mouth – making Violet’s “mouth cancer” (no doubt, aggravated by chain smoking) ironic.  Violet has become a prescription drug addict, maybe understandably, to the anger of Barbara.  A little medical pot helps.  The sisters are prodded by a questionable doctor to take guardianship and put her away, warning she is sinking into dementia.  The husbands (Chris Cooper and Ewan MvGreggor) try to keep some discipline, especially a dinner time.  But soon a series of family secrets starts spilling out, leading eventually to a maze of incest. 
There;s a "free fish" lunch scene near the end, where catfish is served, and Violet refuses to eat.  I was reminded how my mother would try to get me to hide the fact she couldn't eat much from her caregiver.  
The film requires me of a few parallels: “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf” (black and white, which I saw in 1967 at the Granada Theater in Lawrence KS with other grad students), “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”, “On Golden Pond”, “Terms of Endearment”, and even “One True Thing.” 

The Weinstein Company’s official site is here.

I saw this film at the Angelika Mosaic in Merrifeld VA before a surprising weekday afternoon crowd. 

Picture: in the Arbuckle Mountains, OK, Nov. 2012, my trip and pix.  

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