Tuesday, September 10, 2013

TIFF 2013: August: Osage County Explodes With Southern Fried Rage

Posted By on Tue, Sep 10, 2013 at 12:00 PM

Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts and an all-star cast populate August: Osage County
  • Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts and an all-star cast populate August: Osage County

August is miserable in Osage County, Oklahoma. Hell, it's no picnic the rest of the year, either. But the temperature has nothing on the hot blood that courses through the veins of the Weston family.

But to call this pack of wolves "family" is to abuse the privilege; they're more like kin who share the same name. And don't let them fool you. They'll say, "Give me some sugar" when they hug you hello. A moment later, you'll be counting the silverware dug into your backside.

"Thank God we can't tell the future. We would never get out of bed," says one of the Weston daughters, played by Julia Roberts.

I was one of those fortunate enough to be in attendance for Monday night's world premiere of August: Osage County, the explosive screen adaptation of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Tracy Letts, at the Toronto International Film Festival. And just for the record, we almost had an off-screen brawl of our own last night when 100-plus journalists and film industry executives were told that they couldn't fit into the already-packed-to-the-gills theater. There were as many F-bombs dropped outside the theater as there were in the film. And believe me, there are enough F-bombs in August: Osage County to make Richard Pryor blush (and yes, that takes into account the fact that he's been dead for eight years now).

When August: Osage County opened on Broadway in 2007, it took audiences and critics by storm with its hilariously dark humor; and, because there were no above-the-title actors attached to the play, the script was the star. But in this new film adaptation, there are so many stars above the title that they risk weighing down the story's potency. Robert, Meryl Streep, Abigail Breslin, Juliette Lewis, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Benedict Cumberbatch, Sam Shepard. They're all fantastic, but this is a little too heavy-handed with the Oscar bait (and yes, Ms. Streep and Ms. Roberts should expect an invite from the Academy for their work).

"We literally just finished editing the film last Friday," said director John Wells seconds before the lights went down. "I'm hoping it's all here in one piece."

Oh my, yes. And then some. It was all there all right. The Weston family's bubbling casserole of secrets and lies just waiting to be overcooked.

"What can I say? It's about how our families love each other and hate each other," said Wells, adding a little joke (but I can't help but think it was Freudian slip). "And it was pretty much the same among our cast on the set."

The line got a big laugh from the anxious audience, so Wells was quick to add that his cast had also "spent a lot of time talking about our own families in between takes."

August: Osage County opens nationwide on Christmas Day. What a lovely way to spend a holiday with the ones you love and love to hate.

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