I’ve just seen August:Osage County and I thought it was wonderful, and not only because the movie justifies all of my most irrational prejudices about gentiles. Although according to this film, they all enjoy drinking, taking pills and sassing their mothers, who certainly deserve to be sassed. While some people will claim that August:Osage County is a soap opera, I disagree. It’s at least ten soap operas, which makes the whole thing even more fun, and a perfect Yuletide treat for families who consider chain-smoking, slapping and incest to be holiday traditions.
It’s especially great to watch that supreme actress, Meryl Streep, face off with that supreme movie star, Julia Roberts, who plays Meryl’s daughter. Of course, Meryl can demolish all of the scenery for miles around, with just the flick of an eyelash, but Julia’s got her haggard goddess glamour, which is equally powerful. Meryl’s character has cancer, so she gets to lurch around with either a scraggly scalp or a curly dark wig, while Julia responds with gritted teeth and peasant tops. It’s sort of like watching a high-stakes poker game, which begins when everyone slams their Oscars onto the table.
The rest of the cast is perfect as well, with Margo Martindale and Chuck Cooper supplying midwestern realness, and Ewan McGregor and Benedict Cumberbatch as visiting ambassadors to the land of drawl. When everyone, including Julianne Nicholson, Abigail Breslin, Dermot Mulroney and Juliette Lewis, sits down for a post-funeral dinner, the food flies. Everyone behaves terribly, and I kept thinking that if this was my family, we’d add phrases like, “Well, you’re welcome to have your opinion, even if it’s stupid”, “I hear what you’re saying, and now I understand why you went to a state school”, and “Let’s all just please keep our voices down, because the neighbors don’t need to know that we’re disgusting.”
Movies like August:Osage County remind us that you don’t need hobbits and CGI space capsules to have a good time, and that Meryl smirking behind her huge sunglasses is a terrifying special effect. The movie’s producers have seemed nervous, and the TV ads are trying to sell the film as if it’s a cross between Steel Magnolias and A Madea Christmas. The movie’s based on the terrific Pulitzer Prize-winning play, and the director makes a few half-hearted attempts at opening things up, by adding some longshots of the open prairie and a symbolic flock of birds, flying off. But I think that America will love watching Meryl and Julia wrestling on the floor, and maybe the ads should just use the tagline, “A Movie for Anyone Who’s Ever Wanted to Strangle Their Mom.” I think they might also add, “The Only Holiday Blockbuster That Isn’t At Least 45 Minutes Too Long.”
So please, because it’s Christmas Eve, I’d just like to remind everyone to drive safely and punch their parents. I just saw that footage of Pope Francis visiting with the retired Pope Benedict, and they were wearing matching white-and-gold outfits, like Siegfried and Roy. And I’m pretty sure they were chatting about world peace, and whether Meryl and Julia got along in real life, if you ask me.