AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY

The movie should be called Late October: Osage County.

For all the dialogue about the oppressive heat, the light is fall amber, the leaves on the trees are spotty in places, and the characters sure wear a lot of long sleeves and even sweaters. Did I mention that no one visibly sweats?

The point is an important one, and the problem it reveals is verisimilitude, the appearance of truth and reality. Those important details were false and continually pulled me out of the film.

This type of movie needs verisimilitude to work in ways that the play did not because audiences are forced to accept the inherent limitations of the stage where cinema does not have them.

There is a different standard for willing suspension of disbelief for stage and screen.

I’ve never seen August: Osage County presented as a play, though I understand from sources I trust that it is top-notch. Unfortunately, the type of dialogue and staging that are effective in the theater do not translate to film without more modification than has been made here.

The all-star cast is fine, and strong performances abound except when the lines get in the way. There are riveting and painful moments, but the scenes (and other bits and pieces of scenes) that work well individually and independently are offset by other false notes that do not work at all.

So, the question is to see, or not to see?

By all means see the film to watch these actors try so hard to work around and rise above the artificially arch dialogue and theatrical constraints that should have been eliminated in the adaptation.

Of course, another way to look at it is that the pain inflicted and endured by these characters in the film might be unendurable if the film had some of the verisimilitude of, say, The Squid and the Whale (2005) or The Savages (2007) to name two searing, family dramas starring Laura Linney that spring readily to mind.

Osage County

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