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August: Osage County

My all time favorite dramatic play on Broadway, AUGUST OSAGE COUNTY was three and a half hours long, brilliant, funny, harrowing, dramatic and exhausting.

I saw it four times in the theatre and loved it every time. The writing is so perfect that it's like a masterclass in developing characters, natural dialogue and creating big laughs and gasps in the theatre.

I'm not sure anything could equal that experience, but Letts has adapted his own play for the screen and Director John Wells (TV's "Shameless" and "The West Wing") has been handed a dream cast.

Meryl Streep is terrific as family matriarch Violet Weston. Calling her family together to her home when her husband Bev Weston (Sam Shepard) goes missing, each of the Weston daughters arrives with their own baggage.

Julia Roberts is terrific as Barbara Weston, the strongest daughter, able to battle the fierce Violet toe-to-toe. Violet is a pill popping mess, over medicated, under compassionate and ready to spew venomous remarks at anyone that crosses her path.

Barbara is separated from her husband Bill (Ewan McGregor) but he travels with her, along with their teenage daughter Jean (Abagail Breslin).

Daughter Karen (Juliette Lewis in her best performance in years) arrives from California in a Ferrari with her new flame, Steve (Dermot Mulroney). Violet's sister Mattie Fae (the amazing Margo Martindale) arrives with her husband Charlie (Chris Cooper-great) and their son Little Charles (Benedict Cumberbatch showing some amazing range) who is madly in love with the only Weston sister still at home with Violet, Ivy (Julianne Nicholson).

Load all of these great actors and these sharply written characters into one hot, two story farmhouse and watch the fireworks fly.

One of the best scenes in the film (and the play) is a nearly half hour lunch at the Weston home, immediately after a family funeral.

As Violet goes into battle mode and declares that "it's time for some truth telling" the lunch escalates from verbal to physical confrontation in some of the sharpest writing of this or any year.

There will be some that say watching a family this troubled cannot be entertainment. Others will say the cast overacts and shreds any nuance from the story.

Maybe it's because I loved the play so much, but my only disappointment is that the movie is only 2 hours long and that's an hour and fifteen minutes of the play that's lost. The original version didn't have one wasted word, so it's shame the film isn't longer.

The Weston family is profane, crude, bitter, hilarious, cruel and deeply troubled. There are moments here where you feel they couldn't possibly be any more twisted and then they find deeper depths of depravity and desperation to sink to before your eyes.

If that doesn't sound like your cup of tea, run.

If you love great writing and acting and very dark humor, don't miss this movie. It's a challenging and brilliant A.

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