Black Comedy is a difficult brand of humor to pull off. The line between what’s funny and sad or horrific becomes so slender many directors just fall off it. Director John Wells does not necessarily fail to channel the grim humor of August: Osage County, but the film’s occasional honest laughs just seem rather overwhelmed by the tragic relationship of the dysfunctional family at the center of the film, which sees wide release this Friday.
It’s not that this new-found tragic sensibility for Tracy Letts’ play, for which he also provided the film’s screenplay, is unfortunate. The film version winds up becoming a rather operatic journey of a family coming apart at the seams after its patriarch Bev (Sam Shepard) wanders off one day and commits suicide. He leaves behind his cantankerous wife Violet (Meryl Streep) whose bitterly left to face her own oblivion as she suffers from mouth cancer, and, boy, does she ever let loose on her three adult daughters (Julia Roberts, Julianne Nicholson and Juliette Lewis who all hold their own against Streep).
Like any film based on a play, the best parts are the writing and acting. The entire cast seems inspired by this bleak work and all rise to the occasion. Highlights also include Margo Martindale as Violet’s not entirely innocent sister, Ewan McGregor as the over-permissive father to the daughter of Roberts’ character, Barb (Abigail Breslin).
When the film appeared in limited release, I wrote a review for Hollywood.com. Jump through the website’s logo for the full critique, which turned out being more positive than most reviews for this movie:
Here’s the trailer:
It opens in the South Florida area this Friday, Jan. 10, at most multiplexes. My Hollywood.com review also appears on Movietickets.com, where those in other parts of the U.S. can enter their zip codes to find the closest theater hosting screenings.