Oscar Beat TIFF 2013: Darkly Comic AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY Offers Up Multiple Awards-Worthy Performances

     September 10, 2013

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With regards to awards prospects, a common theme of this year’s Toronto International Film Festival has been outstanding performances.  Chiwetel Ejiofor is incredible in 12 Years a Slave, Sandra Bullock basically carries the enormous weight of Gravity all by herself, and Kate Winslet’s work in Labor Day is beautifully understated.  Many have been looking forward to director John Wells’ adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play August: Osage County for a while now, but the darkly comic film just premiered at TIFF and not only delivered with a mesmerizing lead performance by Meryl Streep, but the entire ensemble is simply fantastic.

Hit the jump for my rundown of the Oscar prospects for August: Osage County in this special TIFF edition of Oscar Beat.

august-osage-county-julia-robertsThe story finds the women of the Weston family reconvening in their hometown in northeast Oklahoma following a tragedy, and chaos ensues as the bitter, drug addicted matriarch (Meryl Streep) sets out to further damage every single familial relationship she has left.  Adapting a play for the big screen is a very difficult endeavor, and despite capturing the biting wit and darker elements of Letts’ screenplay, director John WellsAugust: Osage County still feels very much like a play.  That’s not exactly a bad thing though, as Streep and Julia Roberts turn in noteworthy lead performances that are buoyed by a truly phenomenal ensemble cast.

Streep is at once hilarious, terrifying, and sad, and she unsurprisingly takes this meaty character and absolutely runs with it.  Roberts does her best work in years as the co-lead of the film, but in the end she’s still overshadowed by Streep’s commanding work.  Margot Martindale, Chris Cooper, Sam Shepard, Dermot Mulroney, Julianne Nicholson, and Benedict Cumberbatch all manage to stand out despite sharing screen time with the deep ensemble, and it’s a testament to Letts’ source material that the characters come across so distinctly.

august-osage-county-meryl-streepStreep appears destined to nab an Academy Award nomination, but her category is tricky.  Early word was that The Weinstein Company might be submitting Streep for Best Supporting Actress so that Roberts could be submitted for Best Actress, even though both Streep and Roberts are absolutely co-leads in this film.  However, GoldDerby.com now reports that The Weinstein Company has changed its mind and will now be submitting Streep for Best Actress and Roberts for Best Supporting Actress.  Regarding the swap, a TWC rep remarked, “who’s strong enough to beat Cate Blanchett?” Obviously that’s Meryl.

Martindale has a very strong shot at landing a Best Supporting Actress nomination considering she does really fine work here and is an incredibly well-liked character actress, but if Streep had gone Supporting that would have hindered Martindale’s chances.  Now it seems likely that Roberts will land a Supporting nod, and Martindale deserves to be acknowledged as well even though she gets a less showy role.  I also expect Tracy Letts to score a nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay for his wickedly smart and unflinching script.

August: Osage County is very much a performance-driven film, and while Wells’ direction is serviceable, it’s unremarkable.  The film could very well land a Best Picture nomination though, seeing as how the Academy’s acting branch is the largest voting body and Osage County celebrates a great number of talented and well-liked actors and actresses.  Beyond that, I’m not sure the pic has the goods to be a major player in the race.  It will probably be very well-liked by audiences and should nab multiple nominations in the many Oscar precursor ceremonies, but it’s best shots will likely come by way of Streep’s performance or Letts’ screenplay, with Roberts and Martindale as strong possibilities.

Click here to catch up on all of our TIFF coverage thus far, and peruse the rest of the TIFF Oscar Beat articles below:

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