The home fires burn in August: Osage County | Movie Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

The home fires burn in August: Osage County 

Meryl Streep is the cruel matriarch in this adaptation of the Tracy Letts play.

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Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep in August: Osage County

Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep in August: Osage County

An all-star cast—Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Julianne Nicholson, Sam Shepard, Dermot Mulroney, Juliette Lewis, Benedict Cumberbatch—pile aboard Tracy Letts's Pulitzer Prize-winning play about a resentful family reuniting in small-town Oklahoma. Streep chews the scenery as the vicious, pilled-up matriarch, and Roberts (whose early career as a pretty woman has given way to a great sourness) gives as good as she gets playing the angry eldest daughter. The cloistered farmhouse setting, the surfeit of familiar faces, and the furious emotional pitch all contribute to the stifling sense of claustrophobia that's so key to Letts's writing (and which William Friedkin exploited so well in his adaptation of Bug). When Cooper's mild-mannered brother-in-law, overwhelmed by the women's spite, escapes out into the yard to weep, the open space is almost as shocking as his naked emotion. John Wells (The Company Men) directed.

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