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