The Oklahoma of Tracy Lett’s August; Osage County is a total freakin’ wasteland. I’m not talking about the fertile, rolling farmlands stretching off across the plains in glorious golden technicolor summer sunshine. But instead, inside the chintzy over-stuffed patriarchal home of the Weston family, whose Dad has just killed himself. This singular event provides the framework to a whole panoply of familiar dysfunction – drug addictions to prescription meds, flirtations with marijuana, alcoholism, divorce, a creepy interest in the teenage daughter that’s verging on pedophiliac, there’s incest, betrayal, casual racism and even a couple of cancers. And there’s stand-up, knock-down, intolerable cruelty. Just your average family living the American dream, then.
August Osage County is a tale that started life on the stage before moving to the big screen; sometimes it gives itself away as just that. The cast is utterly stupendous – Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Abigail Breslin, Juliette Lewis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Julianne Nicholson (my best) and Dermot Mulroney – and they all give cracking, simply first rate performances. But they sometimes do feel like performances, on a stage, given stagily – rather than an intimate glimpse into one destroyed family effortlessly ripping each others’ hearts out. Fun though.