‘Phil’s Quick Capsule Review’ (a nod to legendary comedian Bill Hicks who coined the phrase when he reviewed ‘Piece Of Shit’ movie Basic Instinct)… where a perfect 10 is rarer than a rain free British summer!
Written by Phil Hobden – UK based podcaster, writer and former filmmaker. Part of the All Things Film network…
It’s The Smoking Lamb Movie Podcast. A weekly, no-holds-baa-aa-arred, and R-rated look at the world of movies.
On this episode: Josh, Mike and Steve take a crack at three films this week – The Tom Hanks/Meryl Streep/Steven Spielberg juggernaut, The Post; the latest Pixar movie (get your tissues ready)Coco, and the shoe-in for best actor, Darkest Hour. We also give our predictions for the Oscars – who do you think will be picking up a new golden statue? On top of this is our Top Five songs in films, Josh checks out High Noon (Or does he???) and we round off the show with Address the Lamb!
Phil’s Quick Capsule Review: I like musicals. I like Anna Kendrick. I even love Stardust which this film shares a few stylistic choices with. So together this should be a winni… oh wait. It’s got Meryl Streep? Oh. AND Johnny Depp playing a strange peadofilic singing wolf? Er… and James Cordon as the lead man? And just like that it fell apart. Which is a shame because the idea behind Into The Woods is great, it’s just a shame that the execution is so hamfisted and obviously. One to miss.
Best Bit: Anna Kendrick is adorable. As always.
Buy, Rent, Stream, Borrow: Stream
If You Liked this Try: Pitch Perfect, Frozen, Sweeney Todd
The Review: I consider Todd Solondz’s Happiness (1998) to be one of the best – no scratch that, THE best – American drama of all time. With its requisite mean spiritedness and quite open and frank cataclysmic undercurrent, it’s a tale of depression, angst, despair and (mild) hope. It deals with characters altogether quirky and aloof, yet we’ve all known someone like them. We thank the Lord above we’re not a part of that family.
It must be said – in the sixteen years that have now passed – that August: Osage County, from the same pen as Killer Joe, as done a reasonably tidy job of approaching the same, lofty goal. Based on the stage play by Tracy Letts, August: Osage County stars Meryl Streep as the matriarch of a southern family consisting of three daughters (Julia Roberts, Julianne Nicholson and Juliette Lewis), their partners, and – in some cases – their children. Abigail Breslin plays Robert’s daughter, and Benedict Cumberbatch plays the son of Margo Martindale’s character Mattie Fay; Violet’s (Streep) sister. Violet’s husband has topped himself, and now she’s in charge. It’s a rather large family, and it’d take ages to go into detail, so I won’t bother.
But I shall bother remarking on the fact that Mr. Tracey Lett’s screenplay seems to have a keen eye on family verse and female idiosyncrasy. He’s very definitely not an equal opportunities writer displaying quite strongly that it is ultimately the female dominance of the family that is the most destructive. If you want to see Julia Roberts say “fuck” – and all its permutations, Streep acting totally against type as the drug-fuelled mother and Benedict Cumberbatch as the beat-upon simpleton, then you’ve come to the right place.
At its very core, August: Osage County is to the family in-house drama what Roman Polanski’s Carnage was to the meeting of antagonistic minds – it’s set largely in one house, principally building up to a second act that comprises largely of a massive, multi-layered argument around dinner. It’s an embarrassing, soul-crushing argument; the cumulative effect of which is featured on the poster. The men stand back and observe the women in their lives go hog wild. The pot stews, then simmers – and then all hell breaks loose.
The film does stumble, though, in getting started. The first act is a requirement, but buckles under the sheer weight of its players. The players, though, are all terrific. My favourite of the bunch is Chris Cooper (Margo Martindale’s husband) who stops this hulking, hurtling train at the beginning of the third act in her tracks. It’s a passionate, rousing soliloquy we suspect has been burning inside for nigh-on 38 years, finally achieving air. Martindale herself – a performer I wasn’t aware of prior to this film – is superb, also. In fact everyone is great, with the slight exception of Dermot Mulroney and Ewan MacGregor, who play Lewis and Roberts’ partners respectively. It’s not their fault, though – they’re just surplus to requirement. For those of you who enjoy more psychological violence than the physical form, you’ll find a lot to amuse and distract you in this film.
The film jarringly springs to life in the final half hour, where revelation after revelation – and a systemic defragging of the family unit – comes tumbling down. It’s car-crash cinema of the very stagey kind, yet still very effective. Quite what the point of all this is, is anyone’s guess. But I suppose, if it’s going to come crashing down around them, we may as well stick around to marvel at it and thank the Lord above that it isn’t us. Stick around for the ensemble – and stay for the gloat. Everyone else seems to be.