- Category: Movie Reviews
- Written by Gilbert Seah
New films opening this week are AUGUST:OSAGE COUNTY, GABRIELLE and LONE SURVIVOR.
AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY (USA 2013) ***
Directed by John Wells
If you quiver at the notion of having to watch another film about a dysfunctional family, there are actually two good reasons to see AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY. One is that it is based on a very well-written play by Pulitzer Prize winning Tracy Wells (last film made was KILLER JOE) who also adapted it for the screen and the other are the performances of the ensemble cast led by Oscar winners Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts.
Beverly Weston (played by Sam Shepard) is an Oklahoma poet battling alcoholism, while his caustic wife Violet (Meryl Streep) suffers from cancer and a new-found drug dependency. Not long after hiring a live-in caregiver for Violet, Beverly vanishes, prompting the family to unite in a search that ends with a morbid discovery. Mother and daughters (Julia Roberts, Julianne Nicholson and Juliette Lewis) are left to deal with the aftermath, and each other — the four women have never exactly seen eye-to-eye.
Of course, as in all dramas on dysfunctional families, there are hidden skeletons in the closet – all waiting to provide more drama during the funeral. Director Wells (THE COMPANY MEN) knows drama well and milks it for all its worth. The only tender moment with Little Charles (Benedict Cumberbatch) playing his written song to his sweetheart (Nicholson) is even cut short with the appearance of high drama in the form of his mother (Margot Martindale).
Streep, Roberts and Chris Cooper outshine the cast and these are obviously Oscar performances here. Despite the cinema of discomfort, AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY is compelling drama from start to finish.
GABRIELLE (Canada 2013) ***
Directed by Louise Archambault
In her introduction to the public screening of GABRIELLE at TIFF, director Louise Archambault emphasized how much love went into the film making and how she wanted this love not only to spread but people to sing out loud whether they can sing or not.
Her spirit is clearly portrayed in her tender drama, about a developmentally challenged young woman’s quest for independence and sexual freedom. Slightly challenged Gabrielle (Gabrielle Marion-Rivard who has Williams syndrome in real life) and Martin (Alexandre Landry) want to explore their feelings for one another physically, but are not allowed. Convinced that living alone will allow her to have the intimate relationship she so desperately craves, Gabrielle tries valiantly to prove she can be independent.
But good intentions, though evident in her film do not always make a good film. For the one and all too familiar story of an individual trying to break out on his/her own is nothing new, despite the different setting. Archambault’s film also suffers from a weak narrative that cannot pin down on what the climax of the film should be – the choir’s performance, Gabrielle’s independence or the rekindle of the love affair.
The film has been selected as Canada’s entry for the Best Foreign Film Oscar.
Best Bets of the Week:
Best Film Opening: Lone Survivor
Best Film Playing: American Hustle
Best Drama: The Wolf of Wall Street
Best Action: The Hobbit2: The Desolation of Smaug