August: Osage County, and other Abigail Breslin films

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Gren
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August: Osage County, and other Abigail Breslin films

#1 Post by Gren » 26 Jan 2014, 16:30

Slight spoilers ahead, possibly getting stronger later.

I just watched August: Osage County and absolutely loved it. As some Radio 1 critic described The Hours many years ago, "this is a real film with real acting" (she's not bad this Meryl Streep woman), but here I think it applies.

It left me with a very strange feeling after I watched it. Obviously it's not a very uplifting dale, in fact it's a total bummer. But afterwards I didn't feel down at all, it was almost like an invigorated feeling. Perhaps this was caused by just seeing what I considered to be an excellent film compared to a lot of mediocrity I've seen lately, but I couldn't put my finger on it.

My girlfriend suggested it was like "that other Abigail Breslin film". I thought she was going to say Little Miss Sunshine (which I liked parts of though wasn't as thrilled with as many others) but she actually meant My Sister's Keeper. "Oh, no, I don't agree with that at all" said I. "Why not?" she said. "They're both really well acted stories that don't have happy endings." I couldn't really argue with that (although suggesting Cameron Diaz "well acted" is a bit of a stretch) but I said they were completely different in my head; A:OC felt like a celebration of how crappy life can be and how people deal with it and carry on. MSK just felt like an exercise in making you feel bad - I didn't take anything from it other than having sick children is incredibly... difficult? (if that's the right word; not sure it is). The girlfriend wasn't convinced I was making any sense. Anyone care to stroke their beard on this?

On a tangentially related note, the last film I remember with Dermot Mulroney in was The Family Stone, which is a film similar to A:OC in many ways, apart from one is good and one is awful.
Lionel Hutz, aka Miguel Sanchez, aka Dr. Nguyen van Thoc, was paid $8 for his 32 hours of babysitting.

He was glad to get it.

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Re: August: Osage County, and other Abigail Breslin films

#2 Post by Steel Frog » 26 Jan 2014, 17:27

Spoiler for
You've heard of "Torture Porn"? I call this "Blubber Porn". Fitting that the tale tells the story of a girl genetically engineered to supply life-giving tissue to her sister as this film has been genetically engineered for you to deliver aloe-giving tissue to your tear ducts.

Now, I'm not made of stone. The plot is, essentially, a dying cancer-stricken teen saying goodbye to the world. That's sad stuff. But the producers couched this premise in such phony conflict that it's impossible for a critical mind to ignore what isn't on screen. Bottom line is the guys who made this movie simply didn't have the balls to tell it correctly. Ok, I see the anger, sort of... now where's the alienation? Where's the resentment? We hint at these, barely... and where's the financial burden? We all know how cost-efficient it is when a family member struggles with leukemia. Sure, mom, give up your lawyer day job; I'm sure dad the fireman can provide everything by himself.

No, the conflict here is the healthy pre-teen daughter suing her mom for the rights to her own body. You read that right. Sis is dying of cancer and we focus on a Shelley Long plot. And mom isn't really a villain, of course; she just wants her daughter to live. You see, we don't want real controversy; we just want tears by the bucketful. That's why mom shaves herself bald out of sympathy, but *presto* manages to have hair later on in the film. Let's introduce a heartthrob, make him a love interest, and then make him die off early so we can't explore the teen-sex issue. God forbid anybody wants to tell a real story.

I think you've cheapened cancer for all of us.
I didn't love August (review out Wednesday), but I found it above Keeper to a very high degree.

And for good measure:
Spoiler for
I am so glad films like this exist. Sometimes you hear the lyrics to “Piano Man” and you say to yourself, “gee, how hard could acting be?” And then you see this insincere, unconvincing, paint-by-numbers, failed attempt at comedrama and it reminds me why I never want to be an actor. You just wanna take the entire cast, shake it up, and say “People! Did you not read the script? Have you not seen the dailies? You’re in a bad film. Please stop acting. It’s embarrassing for us all.”

As for Stone itself, isn’t it great when a dysfunctional family isn’t really dysfunctional? And isn’t it great when a group is so PC, they have to import controversy? And isn’t it great when a tragedy ties up all the loose ends for the family members who don’t die?

I wish that films could be personified, because if I saw Family Stone walking down the street, I‘d kick it in the Family Jewels and walk away satisfied this time.

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Re: August: Osage County, and other Abigail Breslin films

#3 Post by spivey » 27 Jan 2014, 19:16

I too was very much impressed by this film, and I'm somewhat shocked that it has such a low score on Rotten Tomatoes (65%). Meanwhile, Wolf of Wall Street, a movie during which I was literally predicting camera shots, gets a whole 12 points higher?

The pacing and acting in AOC were superb. And as much as the latter is what everyone talks about, it was the former that really pushed the experience home for me. The contrast between the relentless exposition inside the house and the vastness of the American plains outside was hypnotic. I couldn't look away. The movie clutches your attention and holds it mercilessly till the end. But unlike Requiem for a Dream, there are moments of real (if tragic) tenderness.

I loved it. I was genuinely moved.
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Re: August: Osage County, and other Abigail Breslin films

#4 Post by Steel Frog » 29 Jan 2014, 07:42

Spoiler for
August: Osage County


And you thought your family was dysfunctional.
August: Osage County looks like a play. It feels like a play. It smells like a play. Tracy Letts adapted his own work which means that some of the “action” involves people standing outside instead of standing inside. Well, hey, it’s not Iron Man; why battle evil abroad when it exists in pure form in your own house talkin’ smack about every family member.

I had honestly forgotten what it’s like to loathe a Meryl Streep character. It happens from time-to-time. Ohhhhhhh, yeah, *NOW* I remember. Hmmmmm, please, please, PLEASE SHUT UP! Violet (Streep) is the pill-poppin’ matriarch of an Oklahoma family in which I challenge you to find the not-screwed-up one. The extended family reunites over the disappearance/suicide of Violet’s husband Bev (Sam Shepard) which nobody seems to find all that unreasonable. i.e. they all know Violet. You can’t really describe August: Osage Osage3County without describing Violet – she’s ornery, bitter, mean and direct. She doesn’t pussyfoot issues; she’s confrontational and aggressive. She floats in and out of lucidity due to her drug habit (she tosses tablets like a six-year-old with Sweet Tarts at a Disney matinee double-feature); and these are the times you enjoy her company the best. She’s the kind of person for whom the word “schadenfreude” was invented.

Violet represents an age tolerance test — are you wizened enough to forgive her behavior and blame it on the pills? Does she get a pass because she’s elderly and a drug addict? For me — no. I feel that the drug abuse only reinforces, rather than excuses, her awful. And she is awful.

There isn’t a plot to August; it’s a story about how Violet relates to her three daughters: the floosy (Juliette Lewis), the wallflower (Julianne Nicholson) and Violet-in-training (Julia Roberts). Julia has the toughest role, constantly caught within the internal battle between what Violet would do and what a human would do. Among the three, she’s the only one to reproduce and is in the process of losing her husband (Ewan McGregor). The lesson here is understanding multi-generational bickering — and one day, God willing, her daughter Jean will follow the same path.

I think you can tell a great deal about a family, fictional or otherwise, by how it treats the coming-of-age rebel. Jean (Abigail Breslin) exhibits her individuality at the dinner (?) Lunch? Linner? Brunch? table. Just what meal are we having here? Anyway, Jean refuses the pork products offered because she’s a vegetarian. Why? When you eat meat, you’re “ingesting an animal’s fear.” (Animals that AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTYknow they’re being slaughtered or hunted release chemicals associated with fear before they die). Ok, it’s not the soundest reason for being a vegetarian, but there are worse. As adults and child-bearers, we may disagree and know several ways to handle this particular situation. The worst one continues to be: laugh at the teen and demonstrate that his/her POV has no value whatsoever. This is not right-of-passage material. And yet, with one show of solidarity in ostracizing and humiliating the only third generation member present, you have guaranteed the continuity of horrible — one day she will become Violet as well. Congrats, assholes.

This is a vehicle for nominations and little more. Chris Cooper, for comic relief, does deliver the very worst grace in modern history, which is a nice touch. August:Osage County is watchable, but not especially pleasant or satisfying. Only a sadist would see this film twice, or somebody looking for tips on how to make relatives leave.

♪Well, Lord, I got to raise a fuss, Lord I got to raise a holler
Gonna score a nomination with a speech that’s hard to swoller
Nobody likes what I do, but that’s hardly the point
You want to get a laugh, dear, you’ll have to roll a joint

Sometimes I wonder if I drunk up all the booze
Cause there ain’t no cure for the OsageCo blues♫

Rated R, 121 Minutes
D: John Wells
W: Tracy Letts
Genre: Family reunion from Hell
Type of person most likely to enjoy this film: The people who live to see Meryl Streep act … and act … and act some more
Type of person least likely to enjoy this film: Closeted dysfunctional family members

♪Parody inspired by “Summertime Blues”


TAGS: 2.5 stars, 2013, drama, now showing
Spoiler for
August should have ended with Violet by herself on the bottom of the stairs to the living room alone -- a final portrait of "ye reap what ye sow." In fact, I thought this was the ending and started getting up. Oops. Two more scenes. Why? Really bad editing. Nothing more.

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Re: August: Osage County, and other Abigail Breslin films

#5 Post by Gren » 29 Jan 2014, 09:00

Steel Frog wrote:
Spoiler for
August should have ended with Violet by herself on the bottom of the stairs to the living room alone -- a final portrait of "ye reap what ye sow." In fact, I thought this was the ending and started getting up. Oops. Two more scenes. Why? Really bad editing. Nothing more.
I agree with you. Imdb trivia says:
Spoiler
The original ending simply ends with Violet breaking down with Johnna in her company after all her daughters left the family home. Although this is Tracy Letts and John Wells' preferred ending, the negative test audience reaction from previews prompted producer Harvey Weinstein to demand the ending to be replaced with a new ending. According to Wells, the preview audience's bone of contention was on the resolution of Barbara (Julia Roberts) whom they were assuming that she ends up in the similar predicament as Violet, but it turns out not to be as it was implied.
So we're supposed to be uplifted by the fact that Barbara remembers how to drive after all this? Bizarre.
Lionel Hutz, aka Miguel Sanchez, aka Dr. Nguyen van Thoc, was paid $8 for his 32 hours of babysitting.

He was glad to get it.

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