If you were to watch the trailer for August: Osage County, which comes out in wide-release today, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was a raucous family comedy. It’s certainly pitched that way in all the promo materials.
You’ve got Meryl Streep as the matriarch, her blunt, incisive sense of humor eliciting loving eye rolls from Julia Roberts in her triumphant return to cinema and beautiful hair-having. You have Margo Martindale exclaiming over how big Abigail Breslin‘s boobs have gotten (not that I really blame her, because I was overwhelmed by that same fact five months ago), and quick cuts to Ewan McGregor, who absolutely cannot keep a straight face around all this silly old nonsense. It’s just one shot after another of rollicking fun around a dinner table while witty barbs are lobbed back and forth, all in the spirit of fun. Look at them tackle each other to the ground! Look at Meryl running floppily through a hayfield and calling her daughter Juliette Lewis ugly! And why is a sunglassed Dermot Mulroney in this movie? So many whimsical questions!
Sure, it’s spliced in with darker moments on occasion, like Benedict Cumberbatch tearfully running a hand through his hair after missing Sam Shepard‘s funeral, or long shots of Julia Roberts crying prettily, but in general the vibe is very much of a family that puts the ‘fun’ in dysfunctional. Bring the kids and plunk ‘em down in seats for some good ‘ol Southern laughs!
Except don’t do that. Don’t do that at all. Aside from the fact that I don’t feel it was transitioned from the play very well — the play is three hours and the movie is only two, so they end up cramming in one monologue after another, with none of the repartee that was so great and devastating in the Broadway show — this is not a comedy, and it’s certainly not appropriate for the whole fam. I’m not sure why they’re billing it that way, with the bouncy music underneath the trailer and everything, but there are some extremely dark themes nestled into this movie masquerading as a holiday romp.
In fact, without spoiling anything, I can say that pretty much any dark thing that’s popping up in your head right now, they probably found a way to work it into the film. Adultery? Yup. Addiction? Uh-huh. Mental illness? Mmhmm. Death? Yeah. Pedophilia? Yes. Alcoholism? Yeah buddy. Incest? Oh sure. Physical violence? You betcha. Racism? Why not. I could keep going, but I have more posts to write today, and this could go on for a while.
Bottom line, this movie is pretty much a grab bag of tough themes, with a few chocolatey nougats of humor thrown in so you can take a breath in between. It’s just that for whatever reason, pretty much every single one of those nougats ended up in the trailer. What a rip-roaring good time!
(Photo: Claire Folger / The Weinstein Company)