Last night August: Osage County, the starry film adaptation of Tracy Letts' Pulitzer Prize-winning play, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, and while response has been mixed, where there's Meryl Streep there's Oscar talk.
Streep plays Violet, the nasty, drugged-up matriarch of the Weston clan, who doles out insults to her kin, including her daughter played by Julia Roberts. The role of Violet is a meaty part that won Deanna Dunagan a Tony for the Broadway stage production. Streep, predictably, is already getting praise.
"As Vi, Streep is every bit as mercurial, ferocious and funny as one would expect," David Rooney wrote in The Hollywood Reporter, who later qualifies that by adding that she "brings no element of surprise." Drew McWeeny at HitFix explains that Streep is "often both touching and terrible as Violet's drug-induced fog rolls in, leaving her fuzzy and disoriented, then rolls out again, allowing her to perform ego surgery on each of her kids with remarkable accuracy." Over on Twitter, NPR's Linda Holmes tweeted last night: "Dear everyone who gets tired of Meryl Streep winning Oscars: Sooooorrryyyyyy. #augustosagecounty #TIFF13" (Streep herself missed the premiere last night due to "illness." When she missed this year's Golden Globes due to the flu, Amy Poehler joked she was "amazing in it.")
But don't call Streep a shoo-in, yet. The film, critics and pundits are pointing out, has some flaws, which can sometimes dim the awards reaction to even the best performances. Some, like Catherine Shoad at The Guardian, claim the trappings of theatricality hinder the work on screen. Others, like Jeffrey Wells of Hollywood Elsewhere, wish the film had concluded with the play's original ending. McWeeny simply doesn't like the work of John Wells. So as for Oscar, Scott Feinberg of The Hollywood Reporter writes that he's "not sure" that best picture or director nominations are in the cards for this one and even nominations for Streep and Margo Martindale as Streep's character's sister Mattie Fae "won't come without work."
Back in August there was some speculation that The Weinstein Company would field Streep in the supporting category, but yesterday Tom O'Neill of Gold Derby reported that Streep will be in the lead actress race. That means she will be pitted against Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine, which has already won raves, Sandra Bullock battling space in Gravity, and perhaps Amy Adams playing sexy (at least that's what she's doing in the trailer) in David O. Russell's American Hustle.
It's a tough race, but if anyone can break through the pack it's probably Meryl.