Meryl Streep, one of the most highly respected and awards decorated actresses of all time, obviously has been part of many wonderful movies. You can add August: Osage County to that list and now the movie can be seen on Netflix.
Make no mistake about it, August: Osage County is a Meryl Streep movie. Yes, she is surrounded by an all-star cast to include Julia Roberts, Chris Cooper, and Sam Shepard, but this movie shines with Streep’s performance.
The film, written by Tracy Letts and based on his Pulitzer Prize-winning play of the same name, tells the story of a horribly dysfunctional family living in the rural confines of Pawhuska, Oklahoma. Sam Shepard is Beverly Weston, alcoholic and one time noted poet, who interviews, then hires, Johnna, a young Cheyenne woman, to be the live-in cook and caretaker for Violet (Meryl Streep). It’s a thankless job as Violet is immediately contentious and very strong-willed. To make things a billion times worse, Violet is suffering from oral cancer and is addicted to narcotics.
Shortly after the hiring, Beverly disappears from the house. This prompts Violet to call her sister Mattie Fae (Margo Martindale) and daughters for their support and this is where the story begins to kick. There aren’t many likable characters in the movie, but all play their part.
As family begins to arrive, Mattie Fae with husband Charles (Cooper), Violet’s middle daughter Ivy (Julianne Nicholson), eldest daughter Barbara (Roberts), who is just as ill-tempered as her mother, with her husband Bill (Ewan McGregor) and their 14-year-old daughter Jean (Abigail Breslin), Violet’s nasty temperament only rachet’s up even more.
A few days later, Meryl Streep’s character and her family are informed by the sheriff that they have found Beverly. It appears that he took out his boat and drowned. Then Violet’s youngest daughter Karen (Juliette Lewis) arrives with her sleazy Florida businessman boyfriend Steve (Dermot Mulroney).
As the funeral commences, so do family secrets. “Little Charles” (Benedict Cumberbatch), Mattie Fae and Charles’ shy son misses the funeral for oversleeping. Mattie Fae constantly belittles her awkward son and this is where Ivy confesses to Barbara that she is, in fact, in love with her cousin Little Charles. The fact that she has had a hysterectomy leads her to believe that Charles is the only chance she will have at marriage.
More secrets are revealed as the family sits down to a brutal truth-telling dinner led by the vicious Violet. Meryl Streep’s performance is put to the test here. Dinner promptly ends when Barbara has had enough from her mother and literally and physically jumps on her. After she is done beating on her mother, Barbara decides enough is enough and takes all of Violet’s pills.
The family dynamic takes another nauseating turn when Mattie finally reveals to Barbara that long ago, she had an affair with Beverly, resulting in Little Charles, making him their half-brother, which is why Ivy and Charles could never be together. Forget the fact that they had been cousins. The worst is yet to come but spoil it we will not.
As evidenced, August: Osage County boasts a big, all-star cast. Meryl Streep simply chews scenery each and every time she is on screen, which is why her performance as the pill-popping, acid-tongued Violet won her an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. Not for nothing, Julia Roberts’s role as her just as nasty daughter Barbara also won her an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
Movies such as these don’t fall into the big blockbuster category. John Wells directed the ensemble piece with a $25 million budget and the film actually did well at the box office, bringing home a little over $74 million.
Streep’s performance in this movie, though, has been compared to Elizabeth Taylor’s performance in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. That is how mean and nasty she was in her role and how brilliant a performance she gave. But this should come as no shock to those who have followed Meryl Streep’s career.
Meryl Streep caught eyes early on with her performance as Linda in the much-acclaimed 1978 film The Deer Hunter. Then she truly opened eyes the following year as Joanna Kramer in Kramer vs. Kramer. Streep took home her first Academy Award (Best Supporting Actress) for that role. Hollywood knew they were on to something at that point.
Meryl Streep’s list of accomplishments is lengthy. Throughout her career, Streep has received over 400 nominations for various awards, with close to 180 wins. She holds the record for most Academy Award nominations, winning three times, twice for Best Actress.
It’s a career that is as eclectic as it is prestigious, and the highly respected 71-year-old actress doesn’t look to be slowing down much at all. After her recent turns in 2020s The Prom and Let Them All Talk, Meryl Streep will next be seen as the President of the United States in the upcoming comedy Don’t Look Up that also boasts a cast that includes Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Lawrence, Cate Blanchett, Jonah Hill, and Timothée Chalamet.
Until that time, head over to Netflix and see what true dysfunction looks like with August: Osage County. Meryl Streep will not disappoint. She rarely does.