August, Osage County

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.

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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.

The Call

The Call is – in a nutshell – Cellular meets Silence of The Lambs. Halle Berry plays a 911 Emergency operator in L.A who’s been emotionally scarred by the murder of a caller she couldn’t help in time. (a. It wasn’t really her fault and b. the apparent lack of post-trauma counselling for the staff is something I’d think the unions might want to look at, but I digress….) Six months later, Halle is back on the frontlines, when Abigail Breslin calls from the trunk of a car where she’s been kidnapped by a Buffalo Bill type who’s in love with his sister or something. So Halle keeps Abigail on the line for the next hour and a half while she tries to track the call.

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Now maintaining a call in a moving vehicle is a jump-the-shark moment for anyone with an iPhone5, or anyone whose conversations have been abruptly and routinely dropped on Hospital Bend or on the raised freeway around the Foreshore, or going over the neck on High Level Road. But apart from that, and from the predictability of the plot, it’s really quite a fun little movie. Won’t be winning any awards, but a fun enough way to spend some time.