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Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

August: Osage County | Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Chris Cooper, Ewan McGregor, Margo Martindale, Sam Shepard, Juliette Lewis, Dermot Mulroney, Benedict Cumberbatch, Julianne Nicholson, Abigail Breslin, Misty Upham | Review

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4 Chicks SmallJacqueline Monahan

Jacqueline  Monahan

Las Vegas Round The Clock
http://www.lasvegasroundtheclock.com
Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also an entertainment reporter for Lasvegasroundtheclock.com
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August:  Osage County | Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Chris Cooper, Ewan McGregor, Margo Martindale, Sam Shepard, Juliette Lewis, Dermot Mulroney, Benedict Cumberbatch, Julianne Nicholson, Abigail Breslin, Misty Upham | Review

Moviegoers everywhere may go out and embrace their mothers after seeing the likes of matriarch Violet Weston (Meryl Streep) in action.  After husband Beverly (Sam Shepard) goes missing and subsequently commits suicide, relatives convene on the titular homestead for some introspection and vitriol.  Dysfunction oozes throughout each and every branch of this family tree.  

Violet’s three daughters, Barbara (Julia Roberts), Karen (Juliette Lewis) and Ivy (Julianne Nicholson) her sister (Margo Martindale) and brother-in-law (Chris Cooper), their son (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Barbara’s husband (Ewan McGregor) and teenage daughter (Abigail Breslin) all take part, unwillingly, in the death rattle of a family unit, starting with its sharp-tongued matriarch, ironically but appropriately afflicted with oral cancer.  

Violet makes up for whatever time she has left by dripping verbal poison from her switchblade tongue - and it's aimed at everyone, starting with Native American housekeeper Johnna (Misty Upham).

Karen’s fiancé (Dermot Mulroney) has eyes for Barbara’s daughter.  A pair of cousins is secretly in love.  The toxic Violet insults and interrogates each and every family victim with derision and ridicule, telling one daughter that her hairstyle makes her look like a lesbian, and adding stories from her abusive childhood to add to the caustic atmosphere. That is, when she’s not gobbling down mood-changing painkillers.
 
Director John Wells (The Good Thief) focuses almost claustrophobically on the characters in tight shots that evoke a fleshy, organic prison made up of family members blown apart by tragedy, deceit and artifice.  The Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning play by Tracy Letts comes to the big screen full of small-minded, shrewish moments and tormented souls portrayed with skill by a stellar ensemble cast.
 
Even with her distinctive face, Streep disappears into her role as if cruelty, bigotry, and narcotics dependence were her costume.  She's that unrecognizable and miserable, a decidedly unglamorous wreck that wants to share the misery. She paints each of her scenes with an acidic diatribe that melts the wallpaper and withers her offspring.  And smirks through it all.  We knew she was good at accents. Here she proves that toxic psyches are also her purview.  

For her part, Julia Roberts takes no prisoners as middle child Barbara, displaying a backbone that is a rare match for the ailing, though bitterly cruel, Violet.  Margo Martindale takes a turn at heartless in the way she treats a terribly miscast Cumberbatch.  Every one of the cast is so very good at being bad in some way.

The bleak tale is being touted as a comedy (really?) and if so, it is surely laughter through bitter tears of recrimination and regret, of accusation and assumption, of destruction and desolation - brilliantly brought to the screen, and monstrously entertaining, especially when the monster is mom.

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