America’s sweetheart Julia Roberts looked every bit the member of Hollywood royalty as she arrived at the premier of ‘August: Osage County’ at the Toronto Film Festival.
on red alert
America’s sweetheart Julia Roberts looked every bit the member of Hollywood royalty as she arrived at the premier of ‘August: Osage County’ at the Toronto Film Festival. She is joined by an ensemble cast in Meryl Streep, Juliette Lewis, Sam Shepard and Ewan McGregor in the highly-anticipated big screen production of Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer prize-winning play.
The dark comedy drama is directed by John Wells, best known for his work as Executive Producer on the West Wing and ER, directing his second feature after his critically acclaimed if slightly overlooked ‘Company Men’ (2010). The fact that he chose one of the ‘seminal works of American literature’ in recent years as the basis of his all-star production, shows the ambition of a man who lives and breathes good writing. Indeed, who better to take on the mammoth task than Wells, who is also president of The Writers Guild of America.
‘August: Osage County’, is a story of a family, a particularly dysfunctional one, yet one that bears the hallmarks of emotional complexity that make it universally recognisable. Set in Oklahoma, the family, headed by Beverly Wilson (Sam Shepard), an alcoholic poet and his wife Violet, (Meryl Streep), who, suffering from throat cancer, has become addicted to prescription drugs, experiences a trauma that pulls all members together from various parts of the country. Through grief and shared time old hostilities rise to the surface, stoked continuously by the acid tongue of the mother Violet, the three sisters, Barbara (Roberts), Karen (Lewis) and Ivy (Julianne Nicholson), are forced to confront both each other and a closet full of skeletons.
Already tipped for Oscar glory, ‘August: Osage County’, is a true blooded piece of fine work from a long line of American literature that includes Truman Capote, John Cheever and Tennessee Williams. Originally staged in Chicago in 2007, it transferred to Broadway the following year where it played to rapturous reception by both critics and audience, before making it’s way to the National theatre in London and garnering the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, for author, Tracy Letts.
The problem with tackling such a well-loved piece of drama in adaptation for the big screen is of course, how do you keep everyone happy? “Everybody could go down to Samuel French and buy a copy of the play, and everyone had their favourite lines that were no longer in the piece,” Wells told Variety. “One of the things that happened immediately at the cast read through was that we picked up 10 pages by the next day, because everybody had their well-thumbed copy of the play. And about half of that ended up in the film, and some of it didn’t.”
Julia Roberts is a bankable star, she is one of the highest grossing female actors of all time, with both the box-office appeal and the subtle, yet competent talent to play opposite Meryl Streep. “Just being around Meryl is amazing,” said co-star Julianne Nicholson in the same interview with Variety. “Her craft, her skill, her magic is very real. I remember we were in the scene and she’s wearing these dark glasses, and the cameraman said, ‘You’ve got a fingerprint on your glasses. Can you get that off?’ The character she’s playing, she’s going to her husband’s funeral. She took off the glasses and just started putting more fingerprints on them. Any note she gets is just immediately filtered through who she’s playing.”
The pedigree of the writing, the ensemble cast, the grandeur of the setting, the relevance of the material and its ability to hit a nerve with the sentimental cinema going public means this film will feature heavily in the Academy Award nominations 2014. Expect a Best Picture nod, Best Screen Play and good odds on John Wells for a Best Director too. Of course Meryl Streep can never be discounted from the running for best actress, but Roberts’ turn as the brittle, oldest daughter in this family drama could see her up for another Oscar in the Best Supporting Actor Female category.
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