Sat 8 Feb 2014
I had seen the play that inspired August: Osage County a few years back on stage at the HaBima theater in Tel Aviv and I confess that I did not remember much of the story. It took me this second viewing with its fine acting to appreciate the text written by Tracy Letts, which smartly puts each one of its characters at its place and gives it a good reason of being what it is. It is hard to believe that John Wells is only at his second long feature film, but then he has a long career as a producer and this tentative of switching to the shouted rather than the shouting side of the industry provides many good reasons for seeing his work.
Set in the flat landscape of Oklahoma during the hottest possible season August: Osage County starts as a thriller although we never know what really happened to the patriarch of the family who disappears two minutes in the film to become soon dead. The reason of his death does not matter too much, as we understand quickly that the life of a poet and professor of poetry could not be too happy in this environment and it’s not only the weather but a totally dis-functional family that carries in the 21st century the scars of the economic disasters and crisis that marked America in the first half of the 20th one, and of the incapability of its members to deal with the psychological traumas and avoid making the lives miserable one to each other. It’s a big and unhappy family in the tradition of Leon Tolstoy, and we watch how the masks fall from the faces of the characters one after the other, how the reasons of their behaviors, their fears and personal hells are brought to surface exactly at the moment when the families we know are expected to get together at the loss of a dear one. The families we know are never on screen however, but can we really say that we did not know some of the situations or of the characters in this movie?
I suggest to the Academy to create a new category besides the Best Actress and this would be ‘Best Actress Who Is Not Meryl Streep’. Her performance here is so huge, her immersion in the character is so total that I am afraid that she is even better than Cate Blanchett, my supreme love (as actress) in ‘Blue Jasmine’ which I did not see yet. She is so good that we hardly pay attention to the great acting of Julia Roberts in one of her best roles ever, and of all the other members of the cast. Even if complicated family dramas are not your cup of tea (they are not mine), even if the film making has a dose of theatricality (it is based upon a theater play) this film is worth seeing and may offer the best acting in this film season.