The setting is Oklahoma for this humorless, sad tale of a completely dysfunctional family brought together upon the disappearance of their father who is soon found drowned in his beloved boat, no doubt by his own hand. The story is based on the Pulitzer-prize winning play of the same name written by Tracy Letts.
Meryl Streep is at her best as the pill-taking alcoholic mother Viola whose daughters have long since left the family fold, with the exception of Ivy (Julianne Nicholson) who has her own secrets to keep from her siblings. Viola has acquired mouth cancer which does not deter her from her habit of smoking.
Sam Shepherd has a small but significant part to play as Beverly Weston, a once notable poet who has deteriorated into alcoholism along with his sick wife Viola. We learn about his well-kept secret long after his disappearance and death, which initiates the candor about the past which the females in his family no longer need to hide.
Julia Roberts, as the eldest sister Barbara, sets aside all pretense of glamour which aids in getting her the Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role. Barbara and her husband Bill (Ewan McGregor) put on a good show even though they have separated and have no intention of being reunited.
Meryl Streep, of course, is the dominant character, fueled by her pills and alcohol, whose language would cause a truck driver to blush. She, too received nominations for the Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role. It was her 18th Oscar nomination; she has won three Oscars.
The film, however, seems to have no redeeming qualities. It is filled with all that is not holy; intimations of incest, infidelity, questionable paternity, along with the excessive use of drugs and alcohol. Such a plot might turn off even the most avid theater goer. Even the characters sense the evil, as they all leave their homestead in the end. Meryl Streep, however, has such a deep fan base, that nothing will keep her followers from viewing her latest effort.
I find it difficult to recommend this film, particularly if you are seeking entertainment or diversion in your choices. Most viewers have enough of their own personal problems without delving into the motives and problems of characters emoting on the screen. No Ebert thumbs up for this one.
August: Osage County (2013)