I like August: Osage County. Quite a bit, actually. But there is one caveat. Nothing huge, but an important one.
The caveat is this. The movie is not a comedy. Some ads make it look like a comedy. Don't get me wrong. It's funny here and there. Funny as in this situation is so absurd/awkward it's funny. Funny as in biting humor with razor sharp teeth laced with tabasco sauce. And I love tabasco sauce. In fact, the humor opens up incredible family wounds and then dumps an entire salt shaker in them. Some may call that dark comedy. Either way, I call it good. And by the way, this is all done by a cast at the top of its game.
Seriously, look at the credentials of the cast. It's like an NBA All-Star lineup; MVP's, scoring champions, dunk champs and your insanely skilled players.
Your starting five?
Meryl Streep is your point guard. Handles the ball, dishes when need be, hits the crucial jumper and is the glue that keeps the team together. Relentless. Much like Michael Jordan, if Jordan played point guard. Julia Roberts is your shooting/3pt/clutch shot specialist who can go toe-to-toe with anyone. Like Kobe Bryant. Check out the powerful scene Julia has with Meryl in the third act of the movie. That's some serious toe-to-toe. Rounding out the All-Star team is Ewan McGregor as your small forward who can score while Margo Martindale is the strong-arm, power forward and Chris Cooper is your solid, understatedly gifted center. Oh, and then you have Benedict Cumberbatch, Abigail Breslin, Juliette Lews and Dermont Mulroney coming off the bench. All-Star and stellar.
Now, for the movie itself.
I've seen so many screenings of movies in my career that I've learned not to get bogged down in the minutiae. Sometimes it is appropriate, but often it's just nit-picking. I'm an overall package kinda guy. I'm also not jaded. I love the wonderment of sitting in a theater, the lights go down and the movie flickers to the screen. What awaits is a mystery. In fact, I never take the movie production notes the studio hands me as I enter the screening. I want to know as little as possible going in. It lessens any preconceived notions.
I knew nothing about August: Osage County other than Meryl and Julia were in it. That was enough to get me curious. Those two Oscar winners together on screen is a treat. Their story is that of mother-daughter who've brought the family back to their childhood home because the father has gone missing. What transpires when an entire family convenes under those stressful circumstances is incredible, if not hard at times because of the brutal honesty, to watch. Plus, there are twists and turns which surprised me.
I'm sure some people will compare it to the six-time Tony winning play of the same name. Tracy Letts wrote that and wrote the film version as well. I always find those comparisons a bit unfair. I feel it also clouds a reviewer's judgment. It happens when books become films. I say, judge a piece of work on it's own merits. I really don't give two cents about the book or play as it relates to the film. One can never truly be the other. If the film is good, it's good.
August: Osage County is good. The nominations awarded the film and cast are truly deserved.
Does it deserve your $10 bucks (or $13.50 here in Los Angeles) at the box office? I think so. Even though I saw it for free, I'd pay to see it. (I paid for Lone Survivor last night instead of going to a screening because I wanted to see it with a 'real crowd', not a bunch of fellow journalists. Tell you about that tomorrow)