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“August: Osage County” A Worthwhile, If Somewhat Painful To Watch Rental With A Stellar Cast

I rented “August: Osage County” over the weekend. My BFF Georgie and I had wanted to see it when it was in the theaters, but we missed it. We were having a “girl’s night” Sunday supper, (because the rest of the family was busy or tired out from weekend activities), so I picked it up and we popped it in the DVD player after our ribs, ‘tater and three-bean salad feast and before our apple crisp and vanilla ice cream for dessert.

I’m not sure what I was expecting. I knew very little about the Pulitzer and Tony award-winning play from which the movie was adapted by the original author, but I thought it had been described as a “dark comedy”. Well, it certainly was dark. When the movie ended, Georgie and I looked at each other with quizzical expressions and she said, “I’m glad we didn’t pay for that in the theater!” I agreed and returned with, “Boy, they certainly took the ‘fun’ out of dysfunctional!”

And yet as I drove home then and continue now, to mull it over in my brain, I seem to be extricating information, lessons and conclusions regarding life, love and loss from a movie that was at best painful to watch, with a slew of unlikeable characters you wouldn’t want to associate with in real life. The subjects delved into, included, but were not limited to- -drug and alcohol addiction, suicide, infidelity, child abuse, divorce and incest to name a few.

The acting performances were beyond stellar. Meryl Streep continues to amaze as she disappears inside her pill-popping, bitter matriarchal role. Chris Cooper as a low-key put upon brother-in-law and father was wonderful. Brit Benedict Cumberbatch, (the new PBS Sherlock Holmes and Star Trek 2 bad guy), was a revelation in a role totally outside of his wheelhouse, as a pathetic, mewling simpleton. Sam Shepherd, and Margo Martindale, added to the extraordinary talent pool, and Julia Roberts, was–Julia Roberts.

The comic moments were few, the sad and mortifying ones numerous. The characters were a complex lot; a complicated mix of abuser and abused. And any conclusion, other than the possibility that cruelty and abuse can and does perpetuate itself for generations, would be the wrong one. These people are all irrevocably damaged and the destruction began generations ago.

Why do these broken, angry, malicious people choose to return to this volatile, acrimonious home, during a heat-soaked Oklahoma summer after a family tragedy? I believe the answer can only be understood by someone who has been exposed to inexplicable abusive behavior. And I do.



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