August: Osage County

January 26, 2015 - Meryl Streep smokes and swears her way through her role as the cancer-stricken matriarch of a troubled family in Oklahoma. The all-star supporting cast includes Julia Roberts, Julianne Nicholson, Sam Shepard, Chris Cooper, Benedict Cumberbatch, Juliette Lewis, Dermot Mulroney and the late Misty Upham. Tracy Letts wrote the screenplay based on her stage play.

Streep plays Violet, wife to a poet and college professor named Beverly (Shepard). As the movie opens, Bev is interviewing a potential caretaker for Violet, who's suffering from mouth cancer. Bev tells the interviewee that Violet smokes and pops pills. He drinks. That's their deal.

The caretaker (Upham) gets hired and, soon after, Bev goes missing. His disappearance leads the whole family to gather at the homestead in Oklahoma: Daughters Barbara (Roberts), Ivy (Nicholson), and Karen (Lewis); aunt Mattie Fae; her husband, Charlie, and their grown son, Little Charles (Cumberbatch), plus a son-in-law, a granddaughter, and a fiancé. The events of the next few days prove life-changing for all involved as character flaws are laid bare and secrets are revealed.

Overall review: *** Liked it. As movies about dysfunctional families go, you get the feeling that the only way this family can continue to function is if they all go their separate ways and leave Violet behind. Bev's death gives them all that chance. Meryl Streep has her full acting chops on display as she relishes every opportunity to show off Violet's cruelty and self-centeredness. The rest of the cast holds their own, especially Julia Roberts and Julianne Nicholson.