‘August: Osage County,’ reviewed by Marshall Fine


“Every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way,” Tolstoy observed and he could have been talking about the Weston clan of “August: Osage County,” when he wrote that line to start “Anna Karenina.”

This particular family get-together is like one of those “Royal Rumble” professional wrestling matches, where a new wrestler enters the ring every few minutes until you’ve got a massive free-for-all going on. No one, it seems, is safe from attack – and this is a family reunion for a funeral.

Adapted by Tracy Letts from his Pulitzer and Tony Award-winning play, this John Wells film condenses and yet expands upon that theatrical experience, distilling three hours of stage time to two hours on the screen without losing any of the impact, stinging humor or gasp-provoking revelations.

At the center of the battle are matriarch Violet Weston (Meryl Streep), who uses her mouth cancer as an excuse for an ongoing pill addiction that leaves her alternately snarly and woozy (even as she chain-smokes). When her husband Beverly (Sam Shepard), an obviously long-suffering poet and professor, disappears one day, Violet summons her three daughters home. And when Beverly turns up dead, the floodgates open.

This review continues on my website.

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