Saturday, November 21, 2015

Movie Review: August: Osage County

by M. J. Joachim


The story, based on drama playing out in a typically dysfunctional American family, is almost a bit too easy to relate to in this 2013 drama, where everyone comes together after many years being apart, for the funeral of the patriarch. The matriarch, played by Meryl Streep, is an absolute mess. Her husband introduces himself in the beginning of the film, prior to his death, setting the scene for complete and irrefutable chaos. Yet, there’s an endearing quality for each of these poor, pathetic individuals, people in so much pain, too often self-medicating to numb their very lives.

Addiction is a primary theme in the movie, along with the consequences on everyone from its fallout. This movie reminds me a little bit of Ordinary People from the 80’s. Families all have their own dynamics, oftentimes resulting in things few outsiders could ever imagine, yet everybody knows. It’s just not talked about, but there’s gossip out there. No one is exempt from the secret lives of those families, where individuals numb their very existence with booze and/or drugs, prescription or otherwise.

You sense the brokenness, and the longing to come together, in this film. You feel a sadness, yet also a bitter-sweet victory. It’s like being a fly on the wall in someone else’s home, except you know it is commonplace in way too many homes in America. It’s easier to numb the pain and hope for the best. After a while, it’s a normal role for someone to be the loud mouth, slurring her words inappropriately at the family function, calling everyone out for no other reason than because she can.

Meryl Streep was good, and Julia Roberts who played her daughter, she kicked some butt taking on Streep and trying to maintain some sort of irregular normalcy, as per her role in the film. Meanwhile, her own life was falling apart, but she stepped up and did what had to be done anyway. She never let anybody down, even if no one noticed or cared. I think she hated that about herself. Her character was so strong, yet she was so broken, and she’s one of the ones who didn’t numb the pain into oblivion.

Psychologically speaking, this would be a great film to study in a psychology class, or perhaps one dealing with family dynamics, substance abuse and the effects of alcoholism on children. It would also be a good film to watch to learn about suicide and the denial and acceptance of it in families. You find out early on that the father killed himself, though the family played dodge ball and danced around the subject effectively enough to survive the idea. It’s at the end of the film that Dad’s death takes an intriguing, if not curious turn, when you discover so much that led up to it, and how he finally determined this was his only alternative.

I don’t want to give it all away, so I’ll stop now and encourage you to watch the movie. Personally, I got a lot out of it, and will continue to mull over some of the more subtle messages in days to come. I believe there’s a pretty good chance most people will connect with some small part of this film, and it might make a little bit of difference for them in some way, shape or form. It’s a good movie, and the acting is impressive.

Family is what family does, and personally, I think it deserves so much better than this. Wishing you all quality relationships with each of your family members,

M. J.

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