Doug's Take: 'August: Osage County' was mind numbing

Published: Friday, Jan. 10 2014 12:08 p.m. MST

Julianne Nicholson, left, Meryl Streep and Margo Martindale in a scene from "August: Osage County."

Claire Folger, AP Photo/The Weinstein Company

I didn’t have the chance to book a root canal, so I did the next best thing. I saw “August: Osage County.”

As the story of this incredibly dysfunctional Oklahoma family is unfolding, my numbing mind began to wander as I tried to imagine how the film could possibly get more depressing. Well, my imagination didn’t get much exercise because every scene did all the work and delivered depression by the barrels full. We are in Oklahoma, after all.

Even the few touching moments end up being a bummer.

Meryl Streep stars as Violet Weston. She’s going through chemo and is addicted to myriad pills. Sam Sheppard is her husband, Beverly Weston, a much more sensitive soul who is an alcoholic. She’s mean; he’s brooding.

Well, a family tragedy draws their three daughters back to the old family home for a funeral, and each are laden with enough pain and confusion to keep an army of psychiatrists on retainer for decades.

Julia Roberts steps into the role of Barbara Weston, who brings her husband and daughter, played by Ewan McGregor and Abigail Breslin, respectively. Here we’re served up everything from infidelity to teen angst.

Juliette Lewis is Karen Weston. She’s the wild child who has hooked up with a pot-smoking wonder, played by Dermott Mulroney.

It’s getting cheerier by the moment.

Enter Julianne Nicholson as Ivy Weston. What’s the deal with her? Where to begin? She’s the sweetest of the girls, but she’s in love with her first cousin, Little Charles, played by Benedict Cumberbatch.

Then we’re introduced to good old Aunt Fae and Uncle Charlie, played by Margo Martindale and Chris Cooper, respectively. She is almost as brutal and mean as her sister, but Uncle Charlie actually delivers a note of near normalcy. He’s kind and compassionate. Cooper, one of my favorite actors, delivers the most (and one of the only) sympathetic characters in the film.

Well, I’ve got to stop. Simply reviewing “August: Osage County” is depressing me. You would think with a cast like this, somewhere there would be redemption; a payoff would be delivered for enduring this nastiness. Author and screenwriter Tracy Letts leaves us empty, and although director John Wells allows world-class actors to deliver world-class performances, he doesn’t direct them into … meaning.

I think I may need some counseling after seeing this, but before I make the call, I’m giving “August: Osage County” only 2½ stars, and it's rated R.

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