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August: Osage County

It’s August in Osage County, Oklahoma – and it’s hot … really hot. Violet Weston (played by Meryl Streep) is doing her best to endure the heat. She’s dying of cancer and the heat makes the wig she wears unbearable. Her husband, Beverly (by Sam Shepard) has just hired a new nurse and live-in housekeeper to see to Violet’s needs and he is introducing her to the ways of the household. Violet introduces herself as only she can … she staggers into the room, drug addled, slurring her words and belligerent. The new home-help, Johnna (by Misty Upham) does her best to accept the situation and the person now in her care. Knowing she is in capable hands, Beverly takes himself out fishing – but disappears. Violet alerts her family that Beverly is missing and they gradually all arrive to search for him and make sure their mother is okay. Violet’s daughter, Ivy (by Julianne Nicholson) lives nearby so she arrives quickly, she calls her sister Barbara (by Julia Roberts) who comes with her husband Bill (by Ewan McGregor) and their teenage daughter Jean (by Abigail Breslin). Then comes Violet’s sister, Mattie Fae (by Margo Martindale) and her husband Charlie (by Chris Cooper), followed by their son Little Charles (by Benedict Cumberbatch) and the third sister, Karen (by Juliette Lewis) and her fiancé Steve (by Dermot Mulroney). Everyone is here … now to unravel the mystery of Beverly’s disappearance … and of course uncover family tensions and secrets that should have been long buried ….

This movie is dark – both in its presentation and its mood. Violet lives in a house where the shades are down all the time – she does this with parts of her life too. Her daughters don’t see eye to eye with each other, nor with their mother. Violet is unpredictable, prone to outbursts of violence and can be sharp-tongued – her daughters, particularly Barbara, have learned this too. They bring all their family troubles back to the house and churn them all up again in this drama. As you would expect from such a strong cast, the performances are all good. I’ve never seen Meryl Streep in such a confronting role – she is fabulous. Margo Martindale and Chris Cooper support her well. The tension between Barbara and Bill portrayed by Julia Roberts and Ewan McGregor is clear, but a bit pedestrian. Add to this the flighty Karen, again performed well, but just going through the motions really, by Juliette Lewis but her sleaze-ball fiancé Steve, Dermot Mulroney seems to do with ease. The roles of Little Charles, Ivy and Jean all have potential, but are never really explored. It’s a good combination – but the movie is probably a bit too long for its superficiality. Okay … we get the point – these people don’t get on, don’t trust each other and don’t really like each other, the family secrets will come out – truths will hurt and nobody will be happy. It’s the dramatization of the play by Tracy Letts, the Pulitzer Prize winner in 2008. Both Meryl Street and Julia Roberts were nominated for an Academy Award (Oscar) for their performances here.

Made in 2013. Directed by John Wells

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Posted by on April 27, 2014 in Movies

 

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The Company You Keep

Jim Grant (played by Robert Redford) cares for his young daughter on his own since his wife’s death in a car accident. They live in a small town where Jim is a lawyer. In his heady younger days, Jim was an activist in the radical group Weather Underground. They were opposed to the Vietnam War and demonstrated this in actions that sometimes became violent. A fellow member, Sharon Solarz (by Susan Sarandon) has turned herself in, after thirty years in hiding and Jim realises he and his daughter are in danger, after the FBI refresh their search for the group members to bring them to trial. Ben Shepard (by Shia LaBeouf) is an ambitious and inquisitive local journalist who gets onto this story for his small town newspaper and he starts to piece together the crime and intrigue from decades ago. The FBI and the reporter follow a trail of clues to pursue the real story and try to find Jim Grant, now on the run …

This is a nicely made movie with a magnificent cast. Robert Redford is okay, but not great. Anna Kendrick’s character is superfluous really and once again, Stanley Tucci is good but understated – same goes for Richard Jenkins. Overall, I found it “not quite enough for me”. There’s something of a young Russell Crowe about Shia LeBeouf and he’s fine. It’s great to see Julie Christie again – I haven’t seen much of her since Dr Zhivago. Others … Nick Nolte, Chris Cooper and Sam Elliott are good to see. Redford tries to create a thriller, but to me it’s a little pedestrian and those strong performers just seem to be going through the motions. Another, Susan Sarandon, is there but nothing much is really made of her character either – maybe I missed something? The movie won two awards at the Venice Film Festival in 2012 and it is based on a novel by Neil Gordon. Perhaps it would have had more impact for me if I had been aware of the real story in history.

Made in 2012. Directed by Robert Redford.

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2013 in Movies

 

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Remember Me

Tyler Hawkins (played by Robert Pattinson) is a brooding but intelligent guy. He lives in New Jersey, not far from his family, but they all struggle emotionally after a family tragedy five years ago. Tyler totally dotes on his younger sister, Caroline (by Ruby Jerins), she’s smart too and precocious, she’s also a highly talented young artist. She lives with their mother Lena (by Diane Hirsch), who has married again. Tyler and Caroline’s father, Charles (by Pierce Brosnan) is a high-flying and successful businessman in New York City, but since the tragedy he has become distant and treats his children as abstract objects. Tyler hates his father for the way he treats them, so he gives Caroline so much more attention and tries to create a loving environment for her all the time. On the other side of town, Neil (by Chris Cooper) is a hard-nosed, street-wise NY cop who is struggling to live with his own deep loss. He’s raised his daughter, Ally (Emilie de Ravin) now a young woman, on his own since she was eleven. These days, Chris worries about Ally finding her way in the world and he has a deep mistrust for pretty much everyone. One night, Tyler and his best friend Aiden (by Tate Ellington) get into an altercation in the city and Cooper is the attending officer. After this, circumstances lead Tyler and Ally together and they develop a relationship, but it’s as difficult as it is passionate, due to each of them trying to deal with the losses in their past.  This is a story of developing new love, finding trust again and getting something positive from loss.

This is one of those movies where nobody is very happy. In one way or another, life is difficult for all these characters and they all search for solace through their range of emotions. However, the good thing about it is that it delivers many messages and the viewer can take from it what they will – I think people who watch this will develop a range of key memories and messages for themselves – which is really good.  I like it a lot for this reason.  Although I knew who he was, I had not seen any of Robert Pattinson’s work until I watched this movie. In this, he is alright, but he doesn’t shine out from the screen. Pierce Brosnan is strong, but doesn’t feature hugely. Emilie de Ravin puts in a very good performance, but I think the best is by the very young Ruby Jerins, as Caroline. In this role she is dreadfully bullied at school, a marvellous artist, a cheeky but adoring sister and a lost and confused daughter – she does these all very well indeed. I found Tate Ellington’s character tedious and wondered by Tyler stayed friends with Aiden, but I guess that’s just how young men are.  The story has a tragedy near the end which (once you piece all the parts together) may come as a surprise but to me, it also ends on a postive note overall. 

As I said,I like it because it allows viewers to see all the interlinkages and all the emotions each character faces, then decide for themselves what the important themes and messages are.

Made in 2010.  Directed by Allen Coulter

 
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Posted by on July 27, 2012 in Movies

 

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