We here at Screen Rant haven’t covered much of the pre-release new and updates for August: Osage County, but you can rest assured that director John Wells’ dark class study of American midwesterners – adapted by playwright/screenwriter Tracy Letts (Killer Joe) from his original Pulitzer-Prize winning stage play – will earn some attention during the approaching Oscar season bustle, based solely on the source material and sheer body count of celebrated actors/actresses in the cast.
The newly-unveiled August: Osage Country trailer isn’t so much about making the case that Wells – whose directorial resume include episodes of ER, the U.S. version of Shameless and the actor-heavy downsizing drama The Company Men – has brought a distinct cinematic or autuer touch to the proceedings; that is, so that the movie adaptation of Letts’ play feels like more than a work of recorded theater (with high production values and big-name Hollywood players). Instead, the trailer smartly highlights the film’s major selling points: the celebrities who populate the neighborhood and Letts’ uncomfortable laughter-wringing dialogue.
Here is the official synopsis for August: Osage County:
The story of the strong-willed women of the Weston family, whose lives have diverged until a family crisis brings them back to the Midwest house they grew up in, and to the dysfunctional woman who raised them.
In case you lost count, the August: Osage County cast includes such celebrated and/or accredited big screen stars as Oscar-winners Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts and Chris Cooper, in addition to Oscar-nominees Juliette Lewis (Wayward Pines), Abigail Breslin (Ender’s Game) and Sam Shepard (Safe House). Not to mention, Emmy-winner Margo Martindale (Justified), Golden Globe-nominees Ewan McGregor (Jane Got a Gun) and Benedict Cumberbatch (The Fifth Estate), plus award-winners Delmot Mulroney (Jobs) and Misty Upham (Frozen River). How’s that for “Academy-friendly?”
The narrative beats in August: Osage County might not be quite as twisted and disturbing as those featured during the Rated NC-17 Killer Joe movie adaptation (read our review), but the former play-turned cinema project written by Letts is an even less wholesome and non-surgarcoated dramedy of manners than the trailer might have you believe. Question is, does that mean the film adaptation is a refreshingly adult story, full of raw emotions and character interactions that hit more than a little too close to home (for many people)?
Well, here’s what a few of the professional reviews so far – written by the critics who caught August: Osage County at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival – have to offer on that subject:
[This] two-ton prestige pic won’t win the hearts of highbrow critics or those averse to door-slamming, plate-smashing, top-of-the-lungs histrionics, but as a faithful filmed record of Letts’ play, one could have scarcely hoped for better. With deserved awards heat and a heavy marketing blitz from the Weinstein Co., this Christmas release should click with upscale adult auds who will have just survived their own heated holiday family gatherings.
As directed by Wells, he seems to have been almost too hands-off when it comes to his heavyweight cast. There is little in the way of craftmanship here… and the film could’ve used a stronger hand in guiding the transition of the play to the big screen. [The film] winds up playing almost like a supercut of Important Acting In Big Scenes, instead of a cohesive work of dramatic weight and thematic thoughtfulness.
Arriving on the screen with mixed dividends from an all-star cast, the film doesn’t shed its inherent theatricality, stringing together speeches and showdowns peppered with nuggets of stagey dialogue that resists being played in naturalistic close-up. But it’s nonetheless an entertaining adaptation, delivering flavorful rewards in some sharp supporting turns that flank the central mother-daughter adversaries.
And so forth, as that’s enough to get across the general mixed feelings that critics seem to have towards August: Osage County at this point in time. Those who’ve seen the movie, feel free to weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section below. Everyone else, be sure and let us know your initial impressions, based on the trailer footage and early reviews.
UPDATE: Those who saw the film at the 2013 TIFF: it turns out that the version of August: Osage County shown in theaters may have a different ending than the festival cut (click the link for more information).
August: Osage County begins a limited (read: Oscar-qualifying) theatrical run on December 25th, 2013, but will expand to more theaters over the weeks thereafter.
Source: Yahoo! Movies