August: Osage County

Anger -
Family -
Family dynamics explode in August: Osage County
John Wells
Tracy Letts
Meryl Streep,
Julia Roberts,
Juliette Lewis,
Misty Upham,
Julianne Nicholson,
Ewan McGregor
Run time
The Weinstein Company
Distribution Date
Apr 20, 2013

I watched August: Osage County three times at the movies (no judgment please, it's a thing I do) and on the second occasion I went with my whole family. I was particularly interested in my Dad’s reaction. Let’s just say that one of the main characters has eerily similar qualities to someone he knows and I sat near him to feel his response.

The story revolves around the Weston Family, as they flock together in the great plains of Oklahoma to mourn the suicide of their own. As family secrets are revealed, the building tensions between matriarch Violet (Meryl Streep) and her three daughters (Julia Roberts, Juliette Lewis and Julianne Nicholson) is nothing short of horrendous to watch.

To see an eclectic bunch of women in the same house, going through their own individual problems, was one of the greatest experiences of my movie watching life. They are complicated and battle with themselves and the madhouse environment in which they were brought up in. The performances are excellent. I was moved by how the actors stripped down to their bones to play these women with utmost authenticity.

A theme running through August: Osage County, is women’s place in society, be it in the kitchen, looking after a man, or raising the kids. Violet is the poison-tongued center of this discussion. She’s also at the heart of the movie’s homophobia and racism. Violet’s deep intolerance is revealed with lines like “I have an Indian in my house. I don’t know what to say to an Indian.” The Indian she’s speaking of is Johnna (Misty Upham). Silent Johnna. She’s hired to look after Violet’s health and yet Violet openly resents her. This element of the story is deeply problematic. It asks us to look at the face of racism, not feel contempt for it,  just accept it as part of Violet’s character. I’m gonna be honest, it’s tough to swallow.

Each character in August: Osage County makes their own decision in staying or going. And although I can’t relate to that, my Dad can. After the movie, I walked to the car with him and asked, “did that remind you of anyone?” He gave me a smile and said “thank goodness I found your mum and her family.” I smiled and said, “me too.” We didn’t need to identify who it was that triggered that memory. In that smallest of moments, we both acknowledged that his upbringing was a lot different than mine. There is the family that we are born into and the family that we choose. And sometimes it takes seeing someone else’s toxic family to realize how lucky I am.

About the Contributor

Jules recently moved to Toronto from New Zealand to see how the other side of the world lives – apparently it is not that different. She is the social media guru and a film reviewer for Narrative Muse and gets beyond excited about anything muse-worthy. She can also connect any actress or actor to Meryl Streep in 6 degrees of separation – that’s a lot harder than you think.