A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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.
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?
- In theaters: December 25, 2013
- On DVD or streaming: April 8, 2014
- Cast: Chris Cooper, Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep
- Director: John Wells
- Studio: Weinstein Co.
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Brothers and sisters
- Run time: 119 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: language including sexual references, and for drug material
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.