Streep, Roberts do battle in dysfunction drama 'August: Osage County'

Tue Sep 10, 2013 3:51pm EDT
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By Mary Milliken

TORONTO (Reuters) - Right around Christmas, arguably the high season for family dysfunction, moviegoers will get a chance to compare their clans with the calamitous Westons of Oklahoma in the drama "August: Osage County."

They may be thankful they don't have a mother like Violet, Meryl Streep's pill-popping, viper-tongued matriarch. Or they may find shades of themselves in Barb, Julia Roberts's bitter daughter who bristles at Violet's barbs and wallows in a world of unfulfilled promise.

Then there is the alcoholic poet of a father, the old-maid sister, the flighty daughter, the cowed cousin, the pot-smoking teen, the philandering husband and the sleazy boyfriend. Only the wise uncle and maid are somewhat normal in this film adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Tracy Letts.

It was a big challenge to squeeze a three-hour, two-intermission play into a two-hour film, Letts told reporters on Tuesday, the morning after "August: Osage County" had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival.

But, as one of the most buzzed about films going into Toronto, "August: Osage County" garnered some positive early reviews. Perhaps more importantly for the film backed by the Weinstein Company and top producers George Clooney and Grant Heslov, it generated a good dose of Oscar speculation at the festival, which is known to be a launching pad for the awards season.

Variety chief film critic Scott Foundas called it a "splendid film version of playwright Tracy Letts' acid-tongued Broadway triumph." Guardian critic Catherine Shoard was less generous, giving it two out of five stars.

The film has a Christmas release date in U.S. theaters, a propitious time for films with Oscar aspirations.

'CHOKE HER IN THE NEXT WAY'   Continued...

Cast member Julia Roberts arrives for the "August: Osage County" screening at the 38th Toronto International Film Festival in Toronto, September 9, 2013. REUTERS/Mark Blinch