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John Wells
Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Chris Cooper, Ewan McGregor
Writing Credits:
Tracy Letts

Misery loves family

Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts star in the darkly hilarious and deeply touching story of the strong-willed women of the Weston family, whose lives converge when a crisis brings them back to the Midwest house they grew up in, and to the dysfunctional mother who raised them.

Box Office:
$25 million.
Opening Weekend
$7,315,000 on 905 Screens
Domestic Gross

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 121 min.
Price: $34.99
Release Date: 4/8/2014

• Audio Commentary with Director John Wells and Cinematographer Adriano Goldman
• “The Making of August: Osage County” Featurette
• “On Writing with Tracy Letts” Featurette
• Deleted Scenes with Optional Commnentary
• Previews


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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August: Osage County [Blu-Ray] (2013)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 31, 2014)

Based on Tracy Lett’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, 2013’s August: Osage County introduces us to Violet Weston (Meryl Streep), a woman undergoing chemotherapy for mouth cancer. Outspoken and strong-willed, Violet regularly abuses her alcoholic husband Beverly (Sam Shepard). A thoughtful man once regarded as a quality poet, life with Violet drove Beverly to drink, and he eventually vanishes.

This sets Violet into a tizzy, of course, and brings her relatives out to her rural Oklahoma home to support her – grudgingly. Violet’s attitude always rubbed pretty much everyone the wrong way, so we watch the sparks fly during a dysfunctional family reunion.

I admit it: I don’t much enjoy plays, and I tend to find myself even less enamored with cinematic adaptations of stage productions. Actually, musicals often take advantage of the opportunities made available by the move to the big screen, but it feels like many plays-made-into-movies remain restricted and don’t expand the material’s horizons.

I think that’s the case with Osage, though I don’t know how much room for expansion this story would’ve boasted. The story exists as a chance for people to sit around with each other and fight, so it doesn’t come with clear opportunities to spread its wings. It occasionally puts them in cars to fight or in yards to fight, but the heavy character focus limits how much the film expands beyond the stage.

This means Osage lives and dies with the drama it derives from those characters, and it veers too much into over the top melodrama for my liking. At times the story feels like a classier episode of Jerry Springer as it digs into a mix of soap opera elements.

Are these believable on their own? I guess – certainly the issues raised in Osage occur in real life. Is it plausible that topics such as these would crop up in the setting depicted here? I suppose – I’ve never encountered that sort of situation, but I can accept that personal drama might emerge in the midst of crisis circumstances.

I just find it hard to swallow quite so much dysfunction being explored in quite such a volatile way all at once. Osage heavily involves 11 characters as we encounter Violet’s extended family. Wouldn’t you expect at least a few of these folks to lead “ordinary lives” free from Big, Serious Issues?

That would be logical, but it’s not what we get here. Violet’s daughters are all a mess. Barbara (Julia Roberts) is separated from husband Bill (Ewan McGregor) because he cheated on her with a teenager. Their 14-year-old daughter Jean (Abigail Breslin) smokes pot and gets hit on by Steve Huberbrecht (Dermot Mulroney), the oft-married fiancé of Violet’s flighty sister Karen (Juliette Lewis).

Third Weston girl Ivy (Julianne Nicholson) leads a romance with “Little” Charles Aiken (Benedict Cumberbatch), the son of Charles (Chris Cooper) and Mattie Fae (Margo Martindale). Since Mattie Fae is Violet’s sister, this means Ivy plans to marry her first cousin.

And so it goes! Alcoholism, extramarital affairs, incest, drug abuse, cancer – you name it and it pops up here. Again, I realize that all those issues exist, but it seems more than a little coincidental see all of them manifest themselves in the same small group of people across one brief period of time.

I suspect the story would’ve worked better with fewer subplots. 11 prominent roles becomes a lot of mouths to feed, especially since Osage gives each of them an arc. Normally I’d applaud the story’s attempts to develop its roles, but in this case, it comes across as unwieldy. We find too many characters and narrative elements crammed into too little screen time for them to satisfy, so we’re left with little more than tawdry tabloid snapshots.

That makes Osage something of a waste of talent. The film boasts an excellent roster of actors, and I think they seem fine in their roles, though Streep feels miscast as Violet. While Streep brings some depth to the part, it often feels like she’s impersonating Martindale, an actor who often plays roles like Violet. That does allow us to believe them as sisters, but it puts Streep in the odd circumstance of seeming like a clone of someone else.

Osage always remains a professional enterprise, but it never quite engages us in its characters or circumstances. We find too much melodrama and too many monologues for my liking, all of which give it a contrived feel.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B-/ Bonus B-

August: Osage County appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The picture looked fine.

Sharpness was almost always strong. A few wide shots showed a smidgen of softness, but those were minor instances. The majority of the movie looked accurate and concise. I noticed no jaggies or moiré effects, and edge enhancement never manifested itself. In addition, the film failed to display any print defects.

The film’s palette emphasized an arid, yellow look to fit the sweltering plains setting. Within those constraints, the colors seemed fine; they showed appropriate range. Blacks were dark and full, and shadows showed good range. This was a consistently solid presentation.

I thought the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Osage offered a decent but not great auditory experience. Sound quality was always good, at least. Music worked the best, as the score and songs demonstrated nice range and depth. Effects didn’t play a major role, but they seemed acceptably clear and accurate, while speech was distinctive and natural.

The soundscape lacked much to impress. Music showed reasonable stereo presence, though the score remained pretty restrained. Effects had little to do, as they focused the realm of general environment. Some road scenes broadened horizons a little but the soundfield remained low-key. Still, it did what it needed to do for a film of this sort.

Among the set’s extras, we find an audio commentary with director John Wells and cinematographer Adriano Goldman. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific look at sets and locations, issues related to cinematography, cast and performances, production design and visual effects, music, and other domains.

At the start, the track seems a bit dry and technical. However, it improves as it progresses and becomes a more dynamic, inclusive discussion. Ultimately it turns into a fairly valuable look at the production.

Two featurettes ensue. The Making of August: Osage County goes for 19 minutes, 45 seconds and presents comments from Wells, playwright/screenwriter Tracy Letts, composers Kings of Leon and actors Meryl Streep, Margo Martindale, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Julianne Nicholson, Juliette Lewis, Dermot Mulroney, and Abigail Breslin. They discuss story/character areas, cast and performances, and the film’s setting. A smattering of mildly interesting notes emerge, but usually we simply hear praise for all involved. That tone makes it a fluffy and lackluster program.

On Writing with Tracy Letts fills seven minutes, 39 seconds and gives us notes from Letts, Roberts, Wells, Streep, Martindale, and McGregor. We learn about the background to the story and aspects of Letts’ work. “Writing” tells us little of substance and acts as an extension of “Making”; it becomes another promo piece.

Five Deleted Scenes occupy a total of 10 minutes, 47 seconds. These offer more character moments – and more bickering. On their own, they seem reasonably interesting, but they probably wouldn’t have worked in the final cut, mainly because a) they tell us little new and b) they would’ve made a long movie even longer.

We can view the deleted scenes with or without commentary from Wells and Goldman. They tell us about the segments and let us know why they cut them. The notes offer useful information.

The disc launches with ads for One Chance, The Butler and Philomena. No trailer for Osage shows up here.

Packed with top-notch actors and based on an acclaimed play, August: Osage County should’ve achieved greatness. Unfortunately, it becomes bogged down in its soap opera elements and feels too phony to fly. The Blu-ray gives us solid picture along with decent audio and an erratic set of supplements. Osage might be worth a look just to see so many fine performers in one place, but I think the end result disappoints.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4 Stars Number of Votes: 2
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