Streep is certainly firing on all cylinders in this one. As drug-addicted cancer patient Violet she spews forth vitriol to her adult siblings with passionate glee, by turns a monstrous harridan as well as a confused and troubled victim.
It's a performance to savour and this Oscar-winning actress seizes it head on, portraying the conflicting thoughts in her addled brain with vigorous assurance. She's marvellous of course, but here never lets you forget that she's acting all the time. One is immensely admiring of her work here, if not fully convinced.
Roberts as her bitter eldest daughter Barbara comes off better. As the pragmatic one undergoing marriage problems, her down-to-earth demeanour is a fine contrast to her histrionic mother, and when these two get down and dirty in a long dinner table scene, arguing with fierce venom, it is wonderful to behold.
This long sequence is the best in the whole movie – the three daughters there with their respective partners and offspring having attended the funeral of their father (Shepard). Lewis is lively as blowsy Karen, believable as a trashy airhead while Nicholson impresses as shy, downtrodden Ivy. There's fine work too from Cooper and Martindale, the kids' uncle and aunt, while McGregor, somewhat underutilised, has effective moments as Roberts' unhappy husband.
Watch August: Osage County then for the excellent acting. The performers rise to the occasion superbly. Letts' play, though, is perhaps not so powerful on film. The plot machinations aren't fully plausible and the revelations that ensue are slightly creaky. It's very entertaining to be sure, but after viewing I didn't feel anything for it. I came away with a strange lack of satisfaction. My loss maybe, but I could certainly appreciate those formidable thespians giving their all.
EXTRAS ★★★ An audio commentary with director Wells and cinematographer Adriano Goldman; the featurette The Making of August: Osage County; the featurette On Writing with Tracy Letts; and Deleted Scenes, with an optional commentary with Wells and Goldman.