August:Osage County and the familiarity of dysfunctional families

11 01 2014

Just back from this film, and I have to tell you it is a “high-residue” one, according to my family’s categorizing system.

Things like James Bond movies, adventures, most comedies – they’re fun, low residue. You watch them, forget them. You might remember one line, one scene. “Silence of the Lambs”, a mid-residue one. You remember the horror, the sucking of the lips. Other stuff slips away.

This one will stay with me, though. At first glance, August:OC seems like one of the long lasting set of dysfunctional family movies, with scarce humour and a certain grindingness about the endless anger and bad behaviour of everyone involved. Drug abuse, alcohol abuse, years of unsatisfactory conversations and relationships. Generations struggling with the baggage.

But then it grips you. The stories, though gruelling and very challenging for the audience (I heard a lot of gasping as the family secrets were let out, one by one, like goat droppings in the sand) – but the acting and the actors made the movie worth the endurance test. This family leads and has led a hellish series of lives. I can’t help but wonder how I would have turned out after such events. And yet, and yet, in so many ways they are the typical family, trying for the best for their kids, losing themselves along the way, making mistakes, picking favourites, keeping back what should have been said, making deals with one another. It is all both intensely familiar and chillingly strange.

As we were leaving the theatre, several women were chatting and smiled up at us. “Great movie,” they said, “highlights the weirdness in all of our families.”

That it did. I saw scenes my mother wouldn’t have been out of place in. I had a flashback to my wedding day. I revisited places I’d lived in myself – not the whole terrible mess of this family, but certainly little peeks through the blinds at them.

I think I’ll be unpacking this film for a few days yet.

So, not necessarily a pleasant movie, but a thought-provoking one, incredibly well-acted. Worth the viewing, though you may not want to take your family members with you…

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One response

12 01 2014
johnageddes

I want to see this one. I have seen the trailer. Meryl reminds me of my late mother in law.

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