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Tag Archives: Julia Roberts

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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Eat Pray Love

Elizabeth Gilbert (played by Julia Roberts) is a writer with a successful career. She is married to Stephen (by Billy Crudup) and she has a seemingly idyllic life – but she realises she’s not happy, she feels lost and confused and is searching for “something”. On a visit to Bali she meets a wise old man, Ketut Liyer (by Hadi Subiyanto) who starts her thinking about what’s real about her life – and what she really wants. So she takes it on – she leaves everything she knows and her best friend Delia (by Viola Davis) behind and starts her own journey. Along the way, she finds a short passionate romance with David (by James Franco), some wonderful locations, marvellous people including Richard from Texas (by Richard Jenkins) and much fruitful contemplation about her life, until she finally arrives at her point of calm awareness and her positive future opens up ahead of her. 

I am ambivalent about this movie. At first my expectations weren’t high – it had never really been a movie that interested me hugely, but I wanted to see it – so I did. As the story developed I wondered whether I had been wrong in my original presumption about it – perhaps there was more to this story that simply a heart-broken woman searching for “herself” through her next big love. I was pleased that Elizabeth Gilbert had shown strength and independence in her adventures in Italy, India and Indonesia and I have no wish to cast doubt on the self-discovery and enlightenment that the real Liz Gilbert did actually experience in her real life journey (upon which the memoir and this movie are based). But I had hoped that the key lessons and the life principles she was starting to develop would be more about inner strength, independence, self-belief, spirituality and the realisation that a relationship isn’t the be-all and end-all of life. I hoped that she discovered she could find peace, solace and happiness in things other than romance. However, this was not the case – in the end the story is just another banal tale about losing yourself, finding yourself and then finding love – ho hum … I think a much better title for this movie is “It’s all about me really” …..

Note – the supporting roles are all good – Richard Jenkins and Javier Bardem are great and best is Viola Davis who, in 2011,  was actually nominated for a Black Reel Award as Best Supporting Actress for this work. Shame their great talents are wasted in this – it’s no more than a chick flick, not a great piece for women as Oprah or Ellen may have mislead you to believe.

 Made in 2010. Directed by Ryan Murphy

 
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Posted by on March 11, 2013 in Movies

 

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Larry Crowne

Larry Crowne (played by Tom Hanks) is an unassuming fellow around 50 and a great customer service sales rep at his local superstore. He excels in this role and has been “Employee of the Month” nine times. One day, Larry is called to the employee ‘break out’ area where he anticipates being awarded his tenth “EotM”, but instead he is fired – due to the global financial crisis and his lack of a college-level education. Totally shocked, Larry takes action to improve his dire situation – behind in his mortgage with no income at all. He unsuccessfully searches for another job, so he enrols in a Communications and Economics course at the local College. He buys himself a scooter to keep transport costs down, much to the delight of his neighbour Lamar (by Cedric the Entertainer), who swapped the bike for Larry’s four-wheel drive. In a totally new environment, Larry tentatively attends his classes – Communications is taught by the talented but disinterested Mercedes Tainot (by Julia Roberts) who is unhappy but dutifully provides the course to her small class; the huge Economics class is led by Dr Ed Matsutani (by George Takei), a well known and bizarrely intense academic who delivers his classes in a focussed, no-nonsense but unorthodox way. The mild-mannered Larry observes the activity around him without fuss – even when others at College are intrusive and annoying. Larry gets to know a fellow student Talia (by Gugu Mbatha-Raw) and her eclectic group of friends. As the semester progresses, Larry begins to excel in his classes – but in an even better surprise outcome, Larry’s life takes a huge turn for the better.

This is a straightforward movie and there’s not much to it, but the messages are really nice. Larry just accepts his lot and the life going on around him then gets on with things. We are reminded that people come in all forms and that everyone has their own place, their own life and their own contribution to make – age, culture, gender and socio-economics is irrelevant. That positive message is a nice one. The acting here is just so-so, it seems that Julia Roberts and Tom Hanks didn’t really need to do too much. The most entertaining character is Dr Matsutani – George Takei plays him as so strange, he’s hilarious. In general, this movie is quite sweet.

Made 2011. Directed by Tom Hanks.

 
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Posted by on March 16, 2012 in Movies

 

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