Monday, February 17, 2014

August: Osage County. (The film.)

Featuring a stellar cast of Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, that thin, clever looking girl Juliette Lewis, the round faced girl with a sulky expression from all sorts of teenage angst films Abigail Breslin, Ewan Macgregor, a marvellous (spoiler alert) too soon dead Sam Shepard, a beautifully mournful Benedict Cumberbatch and a stunning pack of other people. 

Andy Ellis messaged me the day after I'd seen it. Did I think the director has misunderstood the author's (Tracy Letts') intention. Did I now? I've been puzzling over this. 

I saw the stage play whenever Steppenwolff brought it to the National Theatre. Two or three or four years ago. And I really loved it. Cracking set, cracking cast, brilliant performances. Almost a farce in its speed of delivery, you laughed despite yourself: you knew you shouldn't and that's why it was so right. A catastrophic tale told with swift, searing wit, I was left satisfied that they were all nasty enough to deserve each other. 

The film, in contrast, was melancholic. Slow, considered, concentrating on the slow, sad disintegration, you laughed (occasionally) despite the insidious story, not because of it. This presentation of the  twists and turns was replete with dashed hopes and exasperation. More of a reflection on our hopeless inadequate inability to cope with life's shit than a cruel(ly funny) castigation of those who take lazy shortcuts to try. 

I liked it far less than the stage play. And that sounds like a disservice to the actors which is unfair as they were, to a letter, outstanding. But this was self-loving misery, not fly on the wall misery. Interestingly, the writer's own adaptation. So can we blame the director? Or the perils of a Hollywood that wouldn't accept a three hour story? Or was this a reflection of a presumption that a cinema-going audience cares more (or less?) about the humanity and heart in a story than a smart, supercilious theatre crowd?

I remain unsure. Do go see it. But don't expect to laugh much. 


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