Dark "August" for Family Mired in Mom's "Mouth Cancer"

Updated 47 weeks ago by Tony Rutherford , HNN Entertainment Editor
 Dark "August" for Family Mired in Mom's "Mouth Cancer"

Sisterhood love has become a staple of the film industry, especially as a means to champion female empowerment i.e. “Waiting to Exhale,” “ Beaches,” or “Steel Magnolias.”  Female bonding competes with “romantic” notions that “sisters” prevail over the love of a “male.”

Disney found the formula in “Frozen,” adapting “true love”  past a prince and princess pairing. Elsa, the snow queen, retreats (symbolically) within herself until she learns to control certain emotive powers which pound the kingdom with snow, ice and cold until fearlessly optimistic Anna  determines to work it out with her elusive sis trapped in a prison of self-doubt.

Expect a tweaked happily ever after, but, “August: Osage County” does not carry a similar label for strong-willed women from the emotionally impaired Weston family. Impeccably  cast, audience members aptly label it “soap opera,” though, others inquisitively inquire: Did you come from a family like that?

Violet , the mother figure (Mery Streep) , has an addictive controlling personality with pain killers her drug of choice. Maintaining iron-clad command over her grown up and now dysfunctional children, Violet has insisted on telling the truth. Generally, that’s sound advice, except when decisions disagreed with are taunted and shamed for lifetimes, like the tools of a bully, a mama bully.

Unlike the desirable supportive shoulders sisters Barbara (Julia Roberts), Ivy  (Julianne Nicholson) , and  Karen (Juliette Lewis) politely do not get along with each other or their mom. Each have absorbed mom’s skill of shutting out realities and imposing fairy tale alternatives.

Roberts holds her own against the viper mouthed Streep, emerging as a woman of passion and empathy. Ultimately, her stubborn baggage sabotages all that she does, including attempts to buffer herself (as oldest) between mom and her two younger siblings.

Bickering begins early and increases like rattlesnake poison.  Introductions cannot avoid a stagey appearance until the big blow up at the funeral dinner of Bev (Sam Shepherd), the father and poet who took his own life after enduring his wife’s “mouth cancer” for too many earthly lifetimes.

Intriguingly, Streep’s manipulative control wresting mom continues to further alienate her family the more she ups the ante. One of the most tragic revelations comes through with just enough ambiguity to ponder --- Did she (mom) tell the truth about the secret?

Whether yes or no, unlike Disney’s “Elsa” of “Frozen” whose heart opened to imperfect, yet unconditional love (and a likely finding the inevitable Prince Charming sequel) , Violet has intentionally or not closed the door of reconciliation by her acts of crippling the sister’s self confidence in a misplaced attempt to bind them closer to her. It backfires in an analogy similar to the “powerlessness” in bred as a part of Appalachian character, which sends some on adventurous journeys and dooms others to “I can’t do anything about it.”

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