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Toronto 2013: 'August: Osage County' is a feisty revel in family darkness

When a movie is based on a celebrated Broadway play, the first question you want to ask is pretty basic: Does it play? In the case of August: Osage County, an adaptation of Tracy Letts’ 2007 Pulitizer Prize-winning stage drama about a feisty Oklahoma family marinating in its own miserablism, the answer is a resounding yes. The fights and insults and sadistic parent-child mind games, the disease and addiction, the decades’ worth of gnarled domestic resentments, the powerhouse acting that sometimes shades into overacting (though in this case I’ll be damned if you could the draw the line)…the movie is red meat for anyone who thrives on confrontation and a certain brand of punchy, in-your-face emotional shock value. Yet the pull of what was happening on screen came, for me, with a major qualification: I went with it, I often enjoyed it, but I didn’t entirely buy it. As a play, August: Osage County might have been designed to make every last person who sees it think: “Thank God for my family! Looking at these raging Middle American crazies, I never realized how much I had to be grateful for!” Which is to say: The film, directed with head-on prosaic craft by John Wells (who made the very sharp downsizing drama The Company Men), is an extremely canny theatrical contraption that spreads its darkness like whipped butter on a roll. Is it a good movie? Let’s call it the feel-good feel-bad domestic snake-pit melodrama of the year. READ FULL STORY

'August: Osage County' trailer: Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, and more! -- VIDEO

August: Osage County (out Nov. 8) may well become the year’s fanciest movie about a trashy family. It’s based on Tracy Letts’ hours-long, Pulitizer prize-winning play (which we said was “horrifyingly, deliciously mesmerizing”) and is directed by John Wells from Letts’ adaptation. The cast is stuffed from every angle with talent: Ewan McGregor, Sam Shepard, Abigail Breslin, Juliette Lewis, Chris Cooper, Benedict Cumberbatch, Julia Roberts (as the favorite daughter), and Meryl Streep (as the hated mother).

As the film’s first trailer makes clear, Osage County is a Jenga-like drama of family dysfunction, with funerals and divorces piling atop dinner-table conflicts. Roberts is weary. Streep, with a frizz of black hair, has the juiciest role in the play. Edward Sharpe plays in the background.

Is it foolish to admit I’m most excited for Juliette Lewis?

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