I’ve been watching John Wells work for a majority of my life. Shows like ER and Southland and now Shameless really show how the man can make real people just feel real on screen. How he can create dramatic tension through stillness and subtlety instead of jarringly acrobatic camera moves or set ups. One might assume that his visual technique for this film was just a “point the camera and walk away” style because of the actors he had it his disposal. However, there is a slick sense of simplicity and sneakiness in how he shoots these scenes, puts you in that house, and puts you in those moments. For a film like this, it is all about creating an environment where actors can flourish and bring their characters to life.
Who are the actors at his disposal? Holy crap! Well, I’ve already mentioned the two cinema Godzillas of Meryl Streep and Julie Roberts. And trust me, it is their film to own. But the top notch performances here are ubiquitous. Yeah…I said ubiquitous. It means “everywhere”. I looked it up because I wanted to find a word that could properly illustrate how great everyone is in this film. I haven’t seen Roberts this strong and fearless since Closer. And Streep literally roars reminders at you that she is the best actress walking the planet. But then you have Chris Cooper chewing scenery throughout the film, with Margo Martindale chewing it up right alongside him. Benedict Cumberbatch and Juliette Lewis show up out of nowhere and devour every line they have. Abigail Breslin knocks one out of the park for kicks. Ewan McGegor and Dermot Mulroney slides in great showings too. Hell, Sam Shepard gets one scene and delivers some of the film’s best lines in that time. It is practically a smorgasbord of acting on display. Though, I wanted to single out Julianne Nicholson’s performance because it may be the one overlooked the most. She isn’t the biggest name in the cast but she holds her own with everyone. Before you know it, Nicholson will be the one you feel for the most and the one who will pull your heartstrings the hardest.
August: Osage County is not only deserving of its praise, but deserving of more attention. It might be better suited as a play than a film. However, there is no doubt that the writing, directing, and acting are still good enough for you to enjoy the hell out of it. Sit down with your FAMILY…if you dare…watch it…hope to God that your FAMILY isn’t as crazy as theirs…then tell me I’m wrong.