Blu-ray Review “August: Osage County”

Actors: Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper
Directors: John Wells
Rated: R (Restricted)
DVD Release Date: April 8, 2014
Run Time: 120 minutes

Film: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3.5 out of 5 stars

When I saw the cast for “August: Osage County”. I knew it just had to be amazing. First of all anything starring Meryl Streep gets my vote right away. Top that with ace performances from (BIG BREATH) Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Margo Martindale, Abigail Breslin, Benedict Cumberbatch, Juliette Lewis, Dermot Mulroney, Julianne Nicholson, Misty Upham and Sam Shepard (WHEW). Truly outstanding cast with just perfect and they are same time mentally and physically exhausting. Besides have the worst Blu-ray cover art of the year (how about the rest of the cast), this film was easily one of the best of 2013. A must see!

Official Premise: Streep and Roberts star in the darkly hilarious and deeply touching story of the strong-willed women of the Weston family, whose lives converge when a family crisis brings them back to the Midwest house they grew up in, and to the dysfunctional mother who raised them. August: Osage County is based on the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Drama-winning play by Tracy Letts, who is also known as Andrew Lockhart on Showtime’s Homeland. Director John Wells, best known as executive producer and showrunner of hit television series ER, The West Wing and Shameless, skillfully translates from stage to screen, leading an all-star cast.

Not sure why but we received a Blu-ray only disc to review with no DVD or Ultraviolet code. Now on they do have two versions for sale and in fact this non-combo pack is actually $5.00 more, which makes no sense to me. So if you buy this and I recommend it…be sure to get the combo pack. The 1080p really captures some of the beauty of Oklahoma‎, since most of the film takes place in Streep’s house. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 works perfect with the score and the non-dialogue stage play dialogue.

The special features are decent for this release. There is an audio commentary with Director John Wells and Cinematographer Adriano Goldman. I actually found this very interesting and a nice complement to the film. There are some deleted scenes as well with Commentary by Wells and Goldman. There is a nice behind-the-scenes look at “The Making of August: Osage County”. Lastly there is a Writing Featurette with Tracy Letts, looking into the stage play to the film translation.

Film Review “August: Osage County”

Starring: Meryl Streep, Ewan McGregor and Julia Roberts
Directed by: John Wells
Rated: R
Running time: 2 hrs 1 min
The Weinstein Company

Our Score: 4.5 out of 5 stars

Hollywood is full of movies about pushy and/or overbearing mothers. From Mother Bates in “Psycho” to Mama Rose in “Gypsy” to Margaret White in “Carrie” (the original 1976 version), we’ve seen how they manipulate and mold their children through fear and threats. To that short list add Violet Weston (Streep). When Violet’s author-husband Beverly (Sam Shepard) goes missing, their three daughters return to the family homestead. Oldest daughter Barbara (Roberts) brings along her husband, Bill (McGregor) but doesn’t tell her family that they are currently separated. Middle daughter Ivy (Julianne Nicholson) has a new beau but if afraid to spill the beans. And youngest, free-spirited Karen (Juliette Lewis)….well, she’s young and free-spirited. As is her fiancée, Steve (Dermot Mulroney), who sadly has eyes for Barbara’s too old for her own good 14 year old daughter, Jean (Abigail Breslin). With all of these personalities in one house you know the fireworks can’t be too far behind.

Based on the Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize winning play by Tracy Letts, “August: Osage County” could best be categorized as a class in Acting 101. Led by the magnificent Streep, the film takes a grounded play that ran for three and a half hours and compresses it into a two hour showcase of talent. It is during those two hours that stories are told and secrets are revealed.

What can I say about Meryl Streep that hasn’t been said elsewhere? The most honored actress in film history, she adds another jewel to her crown here. Violet is loud and vulgar, with a smart aleck comment always at the ready. “Are you supposed to be smoking,” she’s asked early in the film. “Is anybody SUPPOSED to be smoking,” she retorts. Unbeknownst to Violet, Barbara has learned to give as good as she gets and the verbal battles between Streep and Roberts are better than fireworks on the fourth of July. To be honest, there isn’t a bad performance in the lot, but I’d be remiss not to give credit to Nicholson and Margo Martindale, who manage to shine in front of this all star assembly.

If there is a problem with the film it’s because of its running time. You can almost sense that there are some things not told, but when the story begins to run over three hour longs you have to cut when you can. Director Wells does open the show up some, but the words and situations are all Letts, who also scored a cult hit last year with the film version of another one of his plays, “Killer Joe.”