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Review and Roundup: 'August: Osage County,' Starring Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts (VIDEO)

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood December 27, 2013 at 1:53PM

Crowdpleaser "August: Osage County" is a messy sprawling dysfunctional family drama that manages to wring some tears by its utterly satisfying conclusion.
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Julianne Nicholson, Meryl Streep and Margo Martindale in 'August: Osage County'
Julianne Nicholson, Meryl Streep and Margo Martindale in 'August: Osage County'

Crowdpleaser "August: Osage County" (December 27) is a messy sprawling dysfunctional family drama that manages to wring some tears by its utterly satisfying conclusion. 

Julia Roberts in "August: Osage County"
Julia Roberts in "August: Osage County"

There's a reason why Tracy Letts' 2008 Pulitzer-Prize winner was so popular, from Steppenwolf to Broadway. Developed by Harvey Weinstein and Letts (who has adapted several of his plays for the screen), with competent if uninspired director John Wells at the helm and George Clooney and Grant Heslov as producers, the movie is anchored by two powerful actresses: Meryl Streep as the Weston family matriarch wailing against the wind, high on pills as she fights mouth cancer, and Julia Roberts as her oldest daughter Barbara. She summons anger and strength as she stands up to her mighty mother--and loses control during a memorable post-funeral dinner scene.  

There's no room for vanity in this movie, as everyone faces off against a relative and behaves badly, at some point, although the men (Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Sam Shepard, Dermot Mulroney and Benedict Cumberbatch) provide some different colors. For better or worse, Streep dominates the movie as the foulest-mouthed unrepentant loving Bad Mother since Shirley MacLaine in "Terms of Endearment."

Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globe nominees Streep and Roberts are also in the Oscar running for Best and Supporting Actress nominations respectively, although some reviews (the NYT's A.O. Scott is particularly harsh) could hurt their chances as "American Hustle" gains momentum. 

Review roundup, trailer and Toronto International Film Festival press conference video are below:

This article is related to: Reviews, Reviews, August: Osage County, Meryl Streep, Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Julia Roberts, John Wells


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.