September 17, 2014
Well, people, we never thought the movie could measure up anyway.
Meryl Streep is fine and dandy. Julia Roberts, too. But from the moment we first heard that a film version of Tracy Letts’ play “August: Osage County” was in the works, we figured it would fall short. Nothing could approach the brilliance of the darkly comic play itself as performed by Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre.
This is not hometown boosterism. This is fact. The play — a story about a mess of a family that draws from Eugene O’Neill, Arthur Miller and Jerry Springer and yet feels entirely new — was a sensation in Chicago and then a bigger sensation on Broadway. It won six Jeff Awards, five Tony Awards and the Pulitzer Prize.
It’s tough to make a good movie out of a good book. Double home runs like “To Kill a Mockingbird” are rare. It’s not so tough to make a good movie out of a good play. Happens all the time. But the experience of seeing “August: Osage County” live, with that Steppenwolf cast and that Steppenwolf vibe, could never be duplicated at a movie theater.
Maybe the film, which the critics are panning, will be get a more charitable viewing years from now, as memories of the Steppenwolf production fade.
Chicago being a theater town, it’s nice to know that sometimes the play’s the thing.