01/06/2014 10:58 am ET Updated Mar 08, 2014

Popcorn Preview: August: Osage County

August: Osage County (2013)
Cast includes: Meryl Streep (The Devil Wears Prada), Julia Roberts (Pretty Woman), Chris Cooper (American Beauty), Ewan McGregor (Salmon Fishing in the Yemen), Margo Martindale (Million Dollar Baby), Sam Shepard (Mud), Dermot Mulroney (The Grey), Julianne Nicholson (Kinsey), Juliette Lewis (Natural Born Killers), Abigale Breslin (Little Miss Sunshine), Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock), Misty Upham (Frozen River)
Director: John Wells (The Company Men, The West Wing)
Genre: Drama | Humor (121 minutes) Based on a play by Tracy Letts

"Violet... she takes pills. And I drink," Beverly Weston (that's the husband) explains their "marriage vows" to Johnna, the Native American woman whose come about the job. "Johnna's the young woman I told you about" Beverly tells Violet. "She's going to cook and clean... and take care of you." "Are you an 'Injun'?" Violet asks. "Yes mam." "Do you think I'm pretty?" Violet is obviously testing the young woman, but she's really angry with Beverly... "Why don't you go fuck a fucking sow's ass!" Then she catches herself and promises to be "sickly sweet" from now on. Beverly explains about the cancer and the chemotherapy. The "punch line is that it's mouth cancer."

When Barbara gets the call from Ivy, she knows she'll have no choice. Barbara is obviously the favorite daughter, but it's Ivy who lives close by and helps out. "I need Barbara," Violet says... "Dad's missing and now I have an Indian living in my house." Not that she doesn't love Ivy, too... "Why don't you wear some make up? You could get a decent man, if you'd just spruce up." Uncle Charlie and Aunt Mattie arrive... God, it's hot... it's August, and the thermometer reads 106°. Barbara arrives with Bill and their daughter... there's tension there, but we won't learn about that until later. "He'll be back," everyone tries to assure Violet... "Beverly's always been complicated." Violet scoffs at that... "You have to be smart to be complicated." The next day Barbara tries to get Violet to remember if Beverly said anything. "You broke his heart when you moved away. You were Beverly's favorite. You know that... he was just disappointed because you settled." Why is Violet always so hurtful? Is it the pills she takes like candy? "You couldn't come home when I got cancer. Now Beverly disappears and you rush right back." She always knows how to twist the knife. "He's gonna walk through that door any time."

But Beverly isn't coming back, and soon the big house on the Oklahoma plains fills with family... Violet's other daughter, Karen with her fiancé... Charlie and Mattie's son, Little Charlie... who isn't so little. While Violet is obviously the primary focus of the family's dysfunction, it's a complicated web of hard feelings, damage and bitterness. At times we see a touch of warmth in Violet, but those moments are rare and fleeting. "The blue ones," she says holding up her favorite pills... "My best fucking friends." Based on Tracy Letts's Pulitzer and Tony Award winning play, August: Osage County is a rough ride through the tragedy of the Weston family. In key scenes, the stage play legacy is easy to notice. While some of the sarcastic barbs are amusing, the humor is laced with poison... as are the family relationships. Meryl Streep dominates most scenes as the vicious Violet, but there are also many other strong performances. As the story plays out, we see that dysfunction seems to be passed down through the generations, as sure as DNA. "Thanks God, we can't tell the future. We'd never get outta bed."

3 popped kernels (Scale: 0-4)
Tragic events bring an estranged, dysfunctional family back together in the August heat

Popcorn Profile
Rated: R (Language, Violence, Drugs)
Audience: Grown-ups
Gender Style: Bold
Distribution: Mainstream Wide Release
Mood: Sober - Depressing
Tempo: Cruises Comfortably
Visual Style: Nicely Varnished Realism
Nutshell: Dysfunctional family
Language: Rude & Crude - True to life
Social Significance: Thought Provoking

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