Review Roundup UPDATE - More Critics Weigh In on AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY
The film adaptation of Tracy Letts' AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY premiered at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival in September and will hit theaters nationwide in January.
The drama, starring an all-star cast including Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Chris Cooper, Abigail Breslin, Margo Martingdale, Andrea Riseborough, and Ewan McGregor, follows the Weston family whose lives have been splintered in many directions until their alcoholic father's disappearance brings them back to their childhood home and to the dysfunctional woman who raised them.
Since our original Review Roundup earlier this month, additional media sites have weighed in on the highly anticipated drama. Let's see what the critics have to say:
A.O. Scott, The New York Times: Another way to think of "August: Osage County," which was directed by John Wells and adapted by Tracy Letts from his own play, is as a thespian cage match. Within a circumscribed space, a bunch of unquestionably talented performers is assembled with no instructions other than to top one another. One twitchy confession must be excelled by another. The same with smoldering, sarcastic speeches, explosions of tears, wistful jags of nostalgia and imperious gazes of disgust.
Peter Travers, Rolling Stone: Tracy Letts won every big theater prize, from a Tony to a Pulitzer, for his enthralling, sprawling three-hour-plus play about the squabbling Weston clan of Oklahoma uniting for the funeral of dear old suicidal dad (Sam Shepard). The clumsily edited film, directed by John Wells, best known for TV producing (ER, The West Wing), cuts an hour of plot and a s**tload of humor and heart. It's a shock Letts did the script; his text was worth fighting for. You feel something's missing.
Ian Buckwalter, NPR.org: "We shouldn't be here." That's the sense you get watching August: Osage County - that you're peering in on moments so intimate and painful that no one should witness them, perhaps not even those who are a part of it.
Justin Craig, FOX News: Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts amaze alongside this year's best ensemble cast in a scintillating familial cock fight. Tracy Letts' adaptation of his Pulitzer Prize-winning play, "August: Osage County" is catnip for actors and raises dysfunction to a whole new level.
Marshall Fine, The Huffington Post: Adapted by Tracy Letts from his Pulitzer and Tony Award-winning play, this John Wells film condenses and yet expands upon that theatrical experience, distilling three hours of stage time to two hours on the screen without losing any of the impact, stinging humor or gasp-provoking revelations.
David Edelstein: Vulture: August: Osage County has no subtext to speak of; it's all bellowed into your face. On Broadway, its Chicago actors knew how to modulate their performances and together build the tension, beat by beat. But director John Wells fractures the action, jumping back and forth between stars in close-up yelling at one another in the style of a more profane Steel Magnolias.
Scott Feinberg, The Hollywood Reporter: The dialogue-heavy dramedy ... unfolds largely like a filmed play... What are we supposed to come away from this experience thinking and feeling? That we are fortunate in that our problems are not as bad as these people's? I'm not sure that's going to prove enough for most awards voters, particularly in such a competitive year.
Scott Foundas, Variety: "There are no surprises - just lots of good, old-fashioned scenery chewing - in August: Osage County, director John Wells' splendid film version of playwright Tracy Letts' acid-tongued Broadway triumph about three generations in a large and highly dysfunctional Oklahoma family."
Tim Robey, UK Telegraph: At first, the film's heading to be a mild disappointment. The scenes prior to this blazing centrepiece are muffled and rhythmically off, certainly compared with the play's brilliant staging at the National Theatre, which lured you into this family's myriad secrets and woes with a cosy largesse. It's a weakness of the play that the men are much less interestingly drawn than the women, and not all the casting transcends this problem.
Drew McWeeny, Hitfix: The performances are all, as you might expect, very good. Streep is often both touching and terrible as Violet's drug-induced fog rolls in, leaving her fuzzy and disoriented, then rolls out again, allowing her to perform ego surgery on each of her kids with remarkable accuracy. Roberts rarely chooses to play characters who are this openly angry and hard to like, and I have to say... she gives it everything she's got.
Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune: The film's not a disaster, or a total dullard, in the way of too many recent filmed plays ("Proof," for one). But "August: Osage County" comes to life, to cinematic and dramatic life, only in fits and starts. And some of the questionable casting choices extend straight to the choice of director.
Kevin Jagernauth, Indiewire: It's undeniable that, at least on paper, "August: Osage County" looks like a can't-miss proposition. Pairing Tracey Letts' Pulitizer Prize and Tony Award-winning play with an outstanding ensemble cast ranging from awards-nominated veterans to rising young stars...And yet, 'Osage County' still turns out be an exhausting, screechy drama, in which a lot of very good actors work very hard, and yet produce so little as a result.
Matt Goldberg, Collider: August: Osage County is a big movie filled with big emotions from big characters played with big performances. Subtlety is not the film's strong suit, but the performances make the characters come alive in such a way that you feel some sympathy for each of the Weston family members even if the character has far more than their fair share of personal shortcomings.
Laremy Legel, Film.com: With a script adapted for the screen by Letts herself, director John Wells is happy to maintain the original's theatrical and somewhat formless narrative structure of the original. "August: Osage County" is a movie that makes Brave choices, upon occasion, but it's all the poor choices, coming in a rapid-fire manner, that eventually sink the work.
Photo credit: Claire Folger/Weinstein Company