August: Osage County

COMIC DRAMA; 2hr 1min

STARRING: Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Julianne Nicholson, Juliette Lewis

Tough love: from left, Roberts, Streep and Nicholson

We don’t choose our families — we all know that — and no-one in her right mind would go anywhere near the loudly dysfunctional Westons of Osage County, Oklahoma. Pill-swilling matriarch Violet (Streep) has mouth cancer, which seems cruelly apt, given the bile she specialises in spewing. Inevitably, her three daughters bear war wounds. Disgruntled Barbara (Roberts, just phenomenal) has a combative thing going with her uncomfortably similar mom. Ivy (Nicholson), who didn’t get out from under, urgently needs to, and eternal optimist Karen (Lewis) settles for less than she should. Compounding the misery, the sisters and their assorted, unsatisfactory men (Ewan McGregor, Dermont Mulroney and Benedict Cumberbatch) have gathered in sweltering heat because Weston patriarch Beverly (Sam Shepard) has killed himself. Not that anyone could blame him.


Actors must adore writer Tracy Letts, who adapted his play for this torrential, John Wells–directed emo-thon. Every verbal thrust is a whammy and even the laughs are a squirm. There’s no lack of love, though, and that’s really the point: sometimes caring demands more than we can give. Small wonder when every day is a deep-fried drama, with a big ol’ splotch of suffering on the side.