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August: Osage County

film shortPlaywright (and sometimes actor) Tracy Letts garnered a Pulitzer Prize for “August: Osage County,” which first hit Broadway in 2007 with actress Deanna Dunagan in the lead role of Violet, the 65-year-old, boozing, pill-popping, cancer-stricken, sharp-tongued matriarch of the Weston family. Estelle Parsons later morphed into the role on tour and did a superb job with it. On stage, the spectacle unfolded into a brilliant, three-act odyssey of dysfunctional family dynamics and the emotional quicksand from which people struggle to be freed.

The much-anticipated film directed by John Wells (The Company of Men) mirrors the play and benefits from a screen adaptation from Letts himself—nobody knows the material better, after all. But direction and screenwriting, as prolific and layered as it is at times, collide with each other far too often here to produce the most effective result: To evoke a genuine, lingering empathy for the characters and feel moved by their journey, however sour it turns. As a director, Wells takes somewhat of a hands-off approach, freeing the creative reigns on his actors too often, most notably Meryl Streep—divine as she is as toxic Violet—and Julia Roberts, who, holding her own opposite a scenery-chewing Streep, still manages to turn in one of the best performances of her career. As a result, there’s a tendency to feel continually assaulted by the dysfunction on screen rather than be moved by it to the degree that some compassion kicks in. It’s a subtle fault and at times weighs down what, overall, is a memorable tour de force packed to the brim with some of the finest performances—individual and collective—to hit the screen in some time. The tale unfolds in the Weston home in rural Oklahoma where several family members return after patriarch Beverly (Sam Shepard) disappears. There are sisters (Roberts, Juliette Lewis and a noteworthy Julianne Nicholson), a plucky aunt (oh, it’s hard not to adore you, Margo Martindale), the aunt’s hubby (Chris Cooper) and son (Benedict Cumberbatch), among others. And everyone, aside from Cooper’s character, is holding onto some family resentment. The best verbal boxing matches occur between Streep and Roberts—both actresses have already garnered Golden Globe noms and Oscar noms will follow. But while the pace of the play allowed for an emotional storm to build upon itself, the film feels more like a creative hurricane, a wicked, and yet, at times, entertaining, latter day Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? which, like it’s lead, Violet, just doesn’t know when to let go. Rated PG-13. 121 minutes. ★★★/4

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As the sun enters Gemini on Sunday, sign of speaking, communication, thinking, inter-relations, writing and understanding languages, the feast days of Pentecost & Shavuot (Catholic and Jewish festivals) occur. During Pentecost’s 50 days after Easter, tongues of fire appear above the heads of the disciples, providing them with the ability to understand all languages and all feelings hidden in the minds and hearts of humanity. It’s recorded that Pentecost began with a loud noise, which happened in an upper room (signifying the mind). The Christ (World Teacher) told his disciples (after his ascension) when encountering a man at a well carrying a water pot (signs for Age of Aquarius) to follow him to an upper room. There, the Holy Spirit (Ray 3 of Divine Intelligence) would overshadow them, expand their minds, give them courage and enable them to teach throughout the world, speaking all languages and thus able to minister to the true needs of a “seeking” humanity. Pentecost (50 days, pentagram, Ray 5, Venus, concrete and scientific knowledge, the Ray of Aquarius) sounds dramatic, impressive and scary: The loud noise, a thunderous rush of wind and then “tongues of fire” above the heads of each disciple (men and women). Fire has purpose. It purifies, disintegrates, purges, transforms and liberates (frees) us from the past. This was the Holy Spirit (Ray 3, love and wisdom) being received by the disciples, so they would teach in the world and inform humanity of the Messiah (Christ), who initiated the new age (Pisces) and gave humanity the new law (adding to the 10 Commandments of the Aries Age) to Love (Ray 2) one another. Note: Gemini is also Ray 2. Shavuot is the Jewish Festival of Gladness, the First Fruits Festival celebrating the giving of the 10 Commandments to Moses as the Aries Age was initiated. Thus, we have two developmental stages here, Jewish festival of the Old Testament. Pentecost of the New Testament. We have gladness, integrating both.

 

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