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Reviews mixed for 'August: Osage County'

8:35 AM, Dec 17, 2013   |    comments
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TORONTO - A film featuring Meryl Streep, and being released in the cold days of autumn, can only mean one thing: Oscar contender.

Such was the case Monday night at the TIFF screening of August: Osage County, the film adaptation of Tracy Letts' play about a very troubled family. Streep plays the matriarch, Violet Weston, a pill-popping harridan with cancer.

The film earned a standing ovation, but ultimate reviews were mixed. Which is perfectly fine, because the ongoing breathless analysis of which film at the festival is the one to beat come Oscar time becomes simply exhausting and, quite often, very wrong, since so many films haven't actually been shown to critics yet.

The Guardian: "It's bracing, but it does feel closer to panto than melodrama, more exhausting than illuminating. ... The Weston home is a hulking halfway house, and you can't help but wish you were just watching a filmed version of the original production."

The Hollywood Reporter: "Arriving on the screen with mixed dividends from an all-star cast, the film doesn't shed its inherent theatricality, stringing together speeches and showdowns peppered with nuggets of stagey dialogue that resists being played in naturalistic close-up. But it's nonetheless an entertaining adaptation, delivering flavorful rewards in some sharp supporting turns that flank the central mother-daughter adversaries."

Variety: "There are no surprises - just lots of good, old-fashioned scenery chewing - in August: Osage County, director John Wells' splendid film version of playwright Tracy Letts' acid-tongued Broadway triumph about three generations in a large and highly dysfunctional Oklahoma family."

(Copyright © 2013 USA TODAY)

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