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August: Osage County


Stars: Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Chris Cooper, Ewan McGregor, Juliette Lewis, Julianne Nicholson, Margo Martindale, Benedict Cumberbatch, Abigail Breslin, Dermot Mulroney, Sam Shepard, Misty Upham, Will Coffey

Director: John Wells

Temperatures are up in the 100s in the Oklahoma plains, and tempers are running them close as the Westons, the dysfunctional American family to end them all, assembles for the funeral of their patriarch (Shepard), who has committed suicide.

Drug-ridden mother Violet (Streep), who probably drove him to it, viciously attacks her three daughters (Roberts, Lewis, Nicholson) for no reason anyone can fathom, while her sister (Martindale) does the same to her tearful son (a miscast Cumberbatch).

Their first dinner together ends with Streep and Roberts, whose entire vocabulary seems to depend on the f-word, wrestling with each other on the floor. Skeletons fairly tumble from closets faster than the characters can curse each other out; and Lewis's current beau (Mulroney) tries to seduce Roberts and McGregor's 14-year-old daughter (Breslin), which throws the estranged couple at each other's throats again.

A kind of ensemble Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, this is the sort of no-claws-barred piece that actors love - and probably get more satisfaction from than the audience. That said, Cooper, whose lower-key performance outshines some of his grandstanding co-stars, and Roberts are strong stand-outs in the full-throttle cast, while Streep overdoes it a bit as the ranting, raving matriarch.

David Quinlan

USA 2013. UK Distributor: Entertainment (Weinstein Co). Technicolor.
120 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 1, Swearing 3.

Review date: 18 Jan 2014