Dear August: Osage County,
When the very hard-bitten Sam Shepard briefly inhabits Beverly Weston of the Osage County, Oklahoma Weston’s, he introduces us to the to the matriarch Violet played with pitch perfect, pill-popping, inebriated, iron-handed insanity by who could be considered one of the greatest actress to ever live, Meryl Streep.
She explodes on the screen to meet the new help after Beverly decides its time to put his affairs in order is when we see the initial hint of the depths of Violet as she spits out one of her vitriol laden verbal bombs. I instantly know I am in the presence of greatness.
Soon we meet Weston daughter Barbara, (played with beautifully compressed agitation by Julia Roberts.) It’s at this point the Weston family is introduced to me. Initially there’s the mousy doting daughter Ivy, (Julianne Nicholson,) and from here the parade begins. There is Aunt Mattie Fay, (Margo Martindale,) Uncle Charlie (Chris Cooper,) Barbara and her estrange hubby Bill (Ewan McGregor.) And ever present through these comings and goings is Violet’s hateful diatribe.
Before long, with the patriarch missing the speculation flies about where Beverly is. As Barbara questions Violet, the masterful depth of the character Streep spins in front of me is mesmerizing. She is center around which all that happens in this film will orbit. And as far as pill popping addictive/compulsive behavior goes, her work is unparalleled. Having lived with this in real life, Streep’s authenticity reigns supreme.
When Beverly’s fate is sure and all the suppressed animosity from family members rises to the top, it’s let the dysfunction commence! There is the funeral, the arrival of daughter Karen and her seedy fiancé (Juliette Lewis and Dermot Mulroney,) and from here with the whole family gathered together, it’s crazy time. The funeral supper is marvelous, heinous and epic all at the same time. But with that insanity there are also moments of humanity and familial sentiment and secrets and betrayals and it is all a bittersweet dichotomy. Throughout this great familial character study is iconic Violet, as that anchor that matriarchs have always served throughout time immemorial. It’s a powerful reminder of how families are glued together for good or bad.
What it all leads too, is a brilliant snapshot of the heart of a family and though it may not be pretty or redeeming, it is human and real in all its imperfect glory. Nothing can take that away, and nothing will dim my appreciation of you for your brutal honesty.