An August Debut

Oklahoma takes a major turn on the big screen this Christmas as August: Osage County, the Tony and Pulitzer-winning play by Tulsa native son Tracy Letts, gets its motion picture treatment. Though much of the drama occurs within the dark confines of the Weston family home (as in the stage version), large portions of the film, were shot in Bartlesville, Pawhuska and other locales in actual Osage County last fall. Sightings of the all-star cast, which includes Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Chris Cooper, Ewan McGregor, Abigail Breslin and Juliette Lewis, along with producer George Clooney, electrified northeast Oklahoma for months.

In the ramp up to its much-anticipated release, a star-studded audience at the Toronto International Film Festival got a first glimpse of the film during its Sept. 9 world premiere. Oscar buzz has surrounded and nearly overshadowed the film from the day Streep and Roberts were announced to portray the mother-daughter protagonists, so many were surprised that the initial reviews were mixed. Variety, who liked the film, calls it an, “astringent Terms of Endearment for the Prozac era, with fewer tears and far more recriminations,” and praises the acting, while the less kind (and, we must add, British) Guardian calls the film a “cropper on the prairie.”

Much attention focused on 17-time Academy Award-nominee Streep, who plays the drug-addled, cancer-riddled, anti-mother of the year Violet Weston. Apparently, Streep’s performance is a scenery-chewing tour de force of crazy that draws comparisons to every over-the-top screen heroine from Auntie Mame to Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? And everyone agrees she’ll get another nomination. Festival discussion also buzzed about the film’s ending, which differs from the stage. However, according to Letts, who also adapted the screenplay, and director John Wells, this may not be the film’s final version. You’ll have to head to a theater near you to find out, and even after a Christmas dinner with your family, a date with the Westons may make you feel fortunate.