Review Roundup: Meryl Streep Stars in AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY

The film adaptation of Tracy Letts' AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY premiered at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival yesterday, Monday September 9 and will hit theaters nationwide on Christmas day.

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.

Let's see what the critics had to say:

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, 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.

Catherine Shoard, The Guardian: Letts is one of the most formidable talents around today, but in handling his screenplay with such kid gloves, Wells puts a passenger in the driver's seat. The results are far from a car crash, but they do smack of the rubberneck, in which grande dames get down and dirty and we gawp politely from the stalls. Sometimes the theatre and the movie house seem very far apart.

Stephen Whitty, The Star Ledger: But this is Streep's movie. It is about her, and she owns it from beginning to end. And no matter what category she is eventually put forward for - and which, if any, Academy members choose to select her for - she is already a winner. And an undisputed champion.

Tim Grierson, Screendaily: the script's high-drama moments tend to dominate, and as a result the movie can sometimes be merely a showy platform for the cast to flaunt their technical skill. But on the whole the ensemble sticks close to Letts' vision of a family on the verge of imploding, letting the writer's language and ideas carry the day.

Photo: TIFF

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