cinema

FILM REVIEW: ‘AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY’ (2014)

“August: Osage County”

Written by: Tracey Letts

Directed by: John Wells

Starring: Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Dermot Mulroney, Chris Cooper, Ewan McGregor, Abigail Breslin…

Story: A dysfunctional family is brought together after a family tragedy, and is forced to deal with family truths about the home they grew up in and the strong willed woman who raised them.

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Tracey Letts is the man behind ‘August: Osage County’. The film was originally a play, which gifted Letts with both a Pulitzer Prize and a Tony Award. The film adaptation drew a strong cast, who have been nominated over and over, namely Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, for their portrayals of mother and daughter Violet and Barbara Weston. Given that the film has received such attention for the cast, we have to wonder where the rest of the recognition fell off. Very few nominations for the screenplay, and John Wells has received little recognition for his Directing, we approach this film with curiosity.

The answer to this becomes apparent as soon as you begin watching. The cast itself are spectacular: Meryl Streep is both hilarious and worrying as the drug addled mother trying to cope with the loss of her husband, and Julia Roberts gives her best performance since Erin Brockovich. It seems almost a shame that awards season is so competitive this year. Were it not for Cate Blanchett’s performance in Blue Jasmine, Streep would be a shoe in for any and every trophy. With strong performances from Ewan McGregor and Chris Cooper serving as the voice of reason against these hot headed women, the interactions are an absolute joy to watch.

Unfortunately, the glory of the film begins and ends with the performances.

While the dialogue (which is alive with profanity) is both captivating and at times shockingly good, the story itself is convoluted with multiple subplots that are left underdeveloped and unresolved. From drugs, abuse, incest, and even touching on statutory rape, one starts to feel pulled in different directions and unsure where to invest. While we want to follow the story of the relationship between Roberts and Streep (as this is by far the most interesting) we are consistently distracted by an onslaught of extremely sensitive issues which are brushed past and never fully explored.

Indeed, aside from the dialogue the film itself is dull. Perhaps this dullness is to serve as a metaphor for the lives of those stuck in Osage County, however it does not serve well for viewing. We are offered a few pretty landscapes (which the characters are quick to complain about) but most of the film is shot inside a dark and dreary house. The lighting is dim and the film moves slowly. There is no respite from the misery that August: Osage County has to offer.

There are a few comedic moments but not enough to carry the film to where you want it to go. In the end we are left with minimal resolution: a ‘driving off into the sunset’ moment simply does not justify the reality of the rest of the film.

With such strong performances from every single cast member, you really really want to enjoy August: Osage County, and indeed I would never discourage anybody from watching it: when you can get to grips with the main story of family it does resonate. However, the lack of nominations in any other category aside from acting is plainly evidenced and supported when you watch this in it’s entirety.

If you are one for stark, witty dialogue and a stellar ensemble cast then definitely watch August: Osage County. If not, then perhaps give it a miss.

 

Rating: 3/5

 

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*Image Credit: imdb.com

FILM REVIEW: “HER” (2013)

“Her”

Written and Directed by Spike Jonze
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson.
Story: Left emotionally vulnerable when his wife leaves him, writer Theodore Twombly (Phoenix) develops an emotional attachment to his operating system, Samantha, voiced by Scarlett Johansson.

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Famous for films such as Adaptation and Where The Wild Things Are, “Her” is the first completely original offering from Spike Jonze where he has both written and directed. As such, we have to enter the theater with the distinct impression that this film is going to be one thing: different.

The concept of the film is beautifully original, and hopes to serve as a warning to us all about our reliance on technology. With a very basic plot, Jonze is able to take us through a head spin of action and consequence as Theodore falls more and more in love with his computer operating system. Phoenix is predictably enjoyable, and Johansson does well to demonstrate that acting is not purely physical, but can be done extremely well with just a voice, however, there is a lot missing from this film.

For starters, Jonze manages to make his script so simple (perhaps hoping for quirky and easy to watch) it leaves gaping holes in the realism of the whole film. While he tries to portray the story as something that could be easily achievable in the not too distant future, it is far too easy for a viewer to become too distracted trying to figure out the technology and lose track of the plot. Indeed, watching the film I found myself becoming increasingly bored of the story line because it just didn’t make sense. With often choppy and inexplicable dialogue, the film attempts to be profound but falls short due to it’s lack of energy. From around half an hour in, you may start to think that this is simply Spike Jonze show-ponying his pretentiousness and existentialism.

The film should scoop some sort of recognition for Best Original Song: The Moon Song, by Karen O being one of the more enjoyable parts of the film. Noteable too, is the cinematography. Hoyte Van Hoytema of ‘Tinker Taylor Soldier Spy’ fame does an exceptional job of achieving what the script couldn’t: true beauty. I would perhaps go so far as to say that this film is worth seeing for the visual beauty of it. The shots are intriguing, quirky, and sometimes even breathtaking.

Between the cinematography and the performances by Phoenix and Johansson, the film is enjoyable, but anyone with a keen mind for a story will be left underwhelmed.

Rating: 3/5

 

 

*Photo Credit: pghcitypaper.com