August: Osage County

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
August: Osage County Movie Poster Image
Affecting but exhausting dysfunctional-family drama.
  • R
  • 2013
  • 119 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 5 reviews

Kids say

age 15+
Based on 5 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Families can sustain you, but they can also be so dysfunctional that they're not healthy. Secrets are destructive, and the truth usually comes out anyway.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The film's full of very angry characters coming to terms with the reasons for their anger, colliding with others in the process. Practically nobody comes across as any kind of role model in this film that centers on a bitter, drug-addicted matriarch of a highly dysfunctional family. A few characters try to do the right thing, but their motivations or methods are questionable.


Several intense arguments among family members, most instigated by cruel goading from their bitter matriarch. Some escalate into screaming fights and at one point the adult daughter tries to wrestle the mother to the ground to take a bottle of pills from her hands. A man is assaulted with a frying pan as he attempts to seduce a young teenage girl.


Several references to sexual relationships, including adultery and incest. A middle-aged man attempts to seduce a 14-year-old girl, isolating her and trying to kiss her. Three adult sisters have an entire conversation about the best term to use to refer to their mother's vagina.



Plenty of swearing all through the film, including "Goddamn," "s--t," "bitch," "c--t," "---hole," numerous variations of "f--k," and many other creative uses of profanity.


One character drives a red Ferrari convertible.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A main character is addicted to prescription drugs and pops pills through much of the film. Her husband is a long-time alcoholic. Other characters smoke cigarettes and drink socially in several scenes. A middle-aged man discusses his desire to smoke pot and later shares a joint with a teenage girl. Several types of medications are mentioned by name, including Valium, OxyContin, Percoset, Dilaudid, Xanax and more.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that August: Osage County is an intense drama about a dysfunctional family and the chaos that erupts in the wake of a suicide that triggers several difficult revelations. There are several bitter arguments as an Oklahoma family's deepest secrets are revealed, along with healthy doses of profanity (including "f--k" and "c--t"), drinking, and smoking. Adultery, incest, and attempted sexual assault are part of the overall story. The main character pops prescription pills like jelly beans and one middle-aged man smokes pot with a teenage girl.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written bywonder dove February 2, 2014

A gem you can't miss!!

This film is exquisite. I was not expecting much from it as I didn't really like the trailer but the wonderful cast pushed me to at least give it a shot. I... Continue reading
Adult Written bydawnsakura January 26, 2020
I did not like the movie at all even with an all-star cast. There is a lot of drug use from pill popping, alcohol drinking, even marijuana smoking. A lot of bad... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written byBestPicture1996 January 28, 2014

Entertaining in the nastiest way!

I see this labeled as a comedy sometimes. While there is pitch black humor to be found in this very theater-esque film, it's mostly coupled with three time... Continue reading
Teen, 15 years old Written byMOVIESRMYPASSION June 20, 2016

Well-made, but kind of boring

It was pretty boring in my opinion. It's really dramatic, but when there was a little comedy, it was pretty funny. Watch if you're sick or in the mood... Continue reading

What's the story?

A cinematic adaptation of Tracy Letts' award-winning play, AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY finds the Westons without their patriarch, Beverley (Sam Shepard), who has disappeared once more. It's not just one of his drunken escapes, though. He's dead. His middle child, Ivy (Julianne Nicholson), the dutiful daughter, tries to maintain her composure as she consoles her mother, Violet (Meryl Streep), who's perpetually enraged and pill-addicted, and not just because she's suffering from mouth cancer. Her youngest daughter, Karen (Juliette Lewis), arrives, toting her determinedly sunny (and blind-to-the-truth) self and her Ferrari-driving businessman fiance (Dermot Mulroney), in tow. Violet's sister, Mattie Fae (Margo Martindale), tries to prop her up, but she's preoccupied by her son's (Benedict Cumberbatch) failings, a fact that angers her husband (Chris Cooper), who feels for his son. And then there's the eldest, Barbara (Julia Roberts), traveling with her teenage daughter (Abigail Breslin) and her estranged husband (Ewan Macgregor), and whom Violet says was the closest to Beverley; she can barely contain her disdain for her mother. Watching it all is Johnna (Misty Upham), a nurse Beverley hired to care for Violet.

Is it any good?

For the cast alone, August: Osage County deserves all the praise in the world. No one holds back here -- not Streep, nor the amazing Martindale and Cooper, and especially not Roberts, who's absolutely fantastic, spitting nails with her bitterness and fury. And it's just as well, because all the roles call for leaving nothing at the table.

Still, there's little relief. That makes for a powerful movie that leaves you aghast, mouth hanging open at the ferocity with which families can hurt. But it also leaves you so fatigued and spent, it's hard to understand why one should continue to bear witness to it all any longer. But here's why: The script, a truncated version of the play, is loaded with a big surprise that drives home the horror of family, of buried history, of secrets.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how the movie depicts family. Does any part of the story feel familiar to you? Do you notice anything about this fictional family that seems more or less realistic than other families in movies?

  • What is harder to endure: a movie packed with unrealistic gun violence or a film like this, full of family tension and bitterness? What kind of movie is more satisfying?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love drama

Themes & Topics

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