16 comments on “August: Osage County

  1. I’ll reveal my ignorance and say that until this film started being talked about I’d not heard of the play nor even of Tracy Letts. It opens here in a week or two and I’m really looking forward to it, not least because it has a cast to die for. Of course when it comes to theatre pieces being transferred to screen there is always something wanting, excisions and compressions just about always among them, so your reservations come as no big surprise. I haven’t the least doubt that were I familiar with the original I would share your feelings. Rarely can I watch a stage play on film more than once without being increasingly distracted by what it lacks. But for a one-off experience, as I say, this ought to be something special – and from your review, it probably is.

    • The play is terrific and the movie is pretty true to it.

      Letts has gotten more attention in recent yrs as an actor than a playwright. He has a recurring role on the TV series Homeland. He won a Tony last yr for playing George in the revival of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe

  2. I saw the play on the Broadway stage with Estelle Parsons. However, Parsons did not originate the role. Violet was originally played by Deanna Dunagan, a member of the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago. The play was later transplanted to Broadway with Dunagan and she later won the Tony Award.

    When I saw the play,, I knew that when this was made into a movie Streep would get the role. How I wish I had been wrong. She should never have been cast. I admit that she is a great actress, but she thoroughly botched and distorted a great American play. The prized role should have gone to Dame Judi or Dame Helen. I keep imagining what they could have done with that role.

    • Thanks for reading and commenting. You are absolutely correct about the role having been created at Steppenwolf. Because Parsons played the role in NYC and in the National tour, her performance is the one with which many theater-goers are familiar. That is the allusion I was trying to make and I phrased it badly. I have corrected the post. Thanks for the opportunity to clarify.

      We’ll have to agree-to-disagree about Streep’s performance. I prefer the stage Violet to the film Violet as well but I don’t think that is because Streep “botched” it. It could be Wells directed a different interpretation but, as much as I like Letts, I think the weakness is the screenplay. Boosting Barbara’s likeability throws the relationships slightly out of alignment. Instead of Violet passing her mother’s legacy to her own daughter, who then shows signs of doing the same with the 4th generation, we just see the daughters reacting to their damaged, shrewish mother without the larger context.

      I would love to see either Mirren and Dench play Violet but that would not have solved the problem I had with the movie. For me, the weakness was not in the acting.

      • If you don’t mind, I’d like to add one more thought:

        My opinion of Streep still holds. I think she was outside of her range. You make a very valid point but I wouldn’t place the blame on the screenplay, but on the director who clearly did not understand the play or failed to impress on his actors that this was a very dark comedy and not a straight drama.

        Thanks for reading and letting me express my thoughts.

      • I love the exchange of ideas on topics relating to the arts so such insightful comments are always welcome. There is no requirement that there be ultimate agreement.

        Thanks again for reading and commenting. I look forward to your thoughts on future posts.

  3. Pingback: Now Playing August: Osage County

  4. You write some very nice (detailed) critique of plays and movies, detailed and well explained. A pleasure to read. You do have a broad knowledge of various plays I am always impressed with your knowledge and understanding and/or analysis of what you speak of.

  5. I forget sometimes what a culture vulture you are but then I read again how many plays etc. that you’ve seen. I was hoping you would see and review this. You know the reviews have not been kind. The only prior knowledge of this play was that I had read and seen on the Tony awards when it was nominated. I thought that I would like it after seeing those clips of stage performances. I’ve read where Meryl has tried to make her character more sympathetic unlike the stage version?
    At any rate, thanks for your review and I hope to get to see it soon.

    • Thanks for reading and commenting.

      I had not heard about those comments from Streep. Interestingly, I read a local blogger who talked about how much less sympathetic she thought Streep was because, that writer felt, some of the humor was gone compared to the stage version.

      If nothing else, I always think something is worth seeing if it sparks discussion; even if not always positively. I hope you get to see it and enjoy it when you do.

    • We are definitely ‘culture vultures’ but we see more plays, operas, symphony, ballet than movies.

      We don’t go the movies as often as I’d like. Because of the holiday releases, I’ve seen 5 movies in the past 8-9 weeks but then only 1 in the 3-4 months before that. I bet it averages out to less than once a month.

  6. Not having seen the play, watching the film as it drew to a close, I saw at least three candidates for the fade-out: Violet dancing (actually just wiggling) to Eric Clapton [pull back, fade-to-black], Violet being cradled on the stairsteps by Johnna [fade-to-black], and finally, the ending used, Barbara driving off.

    Numbers one and two: no optimism. Number three? Seems to me that the hint of optimism — brief indecision, faint smile — was intentional, and with the control Tracey Letts surely held in this production, it must have had his approval. Yes? Unfortunately, it came across to me as just a little final extra screen time for Julia Roberts.

    Also saw ‘Philomena’ last week; that was a different experience;-)

    • The ending of the play is the second of your options and there is some dialog that reflects back to the ends of Acts I and II. (I don’t think that is a spoiler since it isn’t how the movie actually ends.)

      I’m tried to avoid describing the ending for fear of spoilers but the JR scene you describe is exactly the “hint of optimism” I was referring to in my post. I didn’t love that. In the play Barbara stays with her mother for 3 weeks after everyone else leaves. She exits the house and we’re told she drives away but no indication of to/toward what.

      I’ve heard nothing but good things about “Philomena” but have not seen it yet.

  7. I’m a bit of a clod where sensitivity to spoilers is concerned. I do apologize. (Does anyone use the word ‘clod’ anymore?)

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