August: Osage County Blu-ray Review

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It has won many awards, and rightly so, but it is agonising to watch all the same

by Simon Crust May 23, 2014 at 12:39 PM

  • Movies review

    August: Osage County Blu-ray Review
    SRP: £24.99

    Osage County Blu-ray Review

    Car crash cinema? Or award winning drama? Actually both.

    August: Osage County tells the story of a dysfunctional family who reunite after a tragedy where home truths are revealed and familiar bonds are stretched beyond breaking. Written by Tracy Letts, based on his Pulitzer Prize winning play of the same name, the film is directed by John Wells with an all-star cast, including Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Benedict Cumberbatch, Juliette Lewis, and Dermot Mulroney. All are on the very top of their game, producing a body of work that can be described as both a trial and rewarding to sit through. The biggest problem, or, its biggest selling point, is that not one of the cast, save the hired help, is a very nice person, in fact most are reprehensible and just plain vicious and nasty, and when all confined together in blistering heat, tempers simply explode.
    This leads to some very compelling drama (the dinner table scene being the most famous and most traumatic) that is seen perfectly from the actors portrayals to the cameraman’s lens. It is a richly rewarding experience to see such a rare treat in the craft. However, it is also a trial to sit through as while there are some lighter moments based on the characters stories, there is little to nothing to get behind the characters in their arguments. Skeletons in the cupboard are revealed one after the other and at each twist another character is knocked over until nothing is left except despair. Even the director altered ending with its supposed up-beat motif is far too little and far too late. It has won many awards, and rightly so, but it is agonising to watch all the same.

    Osage County Blu-ray Picture Quality

    August: Osage County Osage County Blu-ray Picture Quality

    The disc presents a theatrically correct widescreen 2.40:1 1080p transfer using the AVC codec and is Region locked to B.

    Actually made on film, this transfer is nothing short of reference all the way. First up, detail; it’s quite excellent from close up to distance absolutely nothing is lost – take a look at the credits with its close ups of the decaying house, the peeling paint, the rusty hinges, the broken window screens then look at the many, many landscape shots overlooking the vast plains, how clear the foreground is, dirt roads, grasses etc. against the horizon with its tree lines or the sunsets with the shadows of distance buildings, fields or the clouds in the sky – simply stunning.

    Colouring is just as well realised, much like most modern film this has had some post-production grading reducing the blue to heighten the red/green spectrum, and this gives the picture a very warm hue, highlighting the sun burnt vistas, meaning the screen burns. Landscape shots make full use of this, especially the sunsets which look postcard perfect in their rendition. Skin tones are pushed slightly towards the warm, excepting Violet who’s pale and warn texture fits in with her bitter nature. Colour grades perfectly, with the blue of the sky, the burnt green of the dry land and even the dark water showing no signs of separating.

    Sunsets look postcard perfect in their rendition

    Brightness and contrast are set to give magnificent blacks which add a great deal of punch and depth to the picture. Shadow detail is limited, due to the nature of the film, but where it is necessary, such as night shoots or in the dark confines of the mausoleum like house add much to the image. Blacks never crush, nor do they descend into a grainy mess in darker areas, likewise the whites never clip and no detail is ever lost even in the brightest parts of the screen.

    Digitally there are no compression problems, or edge enhancement. There is no posterization or aliasing. The original print is in pristine condition and there is a very light and pleasing sheen of grain giving the picture a lovely organic look. A thoroughly absorbing picture.

    Osage County Blu-ray Sound Quality

    August: Osage County Osage County Blu-ray Sound Quality

    Only the one track to choose from: English dts-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround. The film is very dialogue heavy and thankfully this is given the best attention, being dominated by the frontal array, given the occasional bout of directionality, but sounds perfectly natural and well defined within the mix. There are some deceptively simply ambient sounds that really add to the realism of the piece, for example a ticking clock, creaking floorboards, slight wind noise, in scenes that are ostensibly about a dialogue exchange that makes it feel as if the room is alive and adds a terrific sense of being there. Scenes set outside benefit from this realistic ambience as well and this helps to open up the soundstage from the confines of the claustrophobic house. Bass is used to fill out the bottom end to provide realism, never for LF effects, but that’s perfectly natural considering the type of film. The score gets the best use of the surround environment in terms of effects, with Lay Down Sally never sounding so alive. Natural, engaging and real – what more could you want?

    Natural, engaging and real – what more could you want?

    Osage County Blu-ray Extras

    August: Osage County Osage County Blu-ray Extras

    Audio Commentary - With director John Wells and cinematographer Adriano Goldman who in a well-spoken and informative chat talk about not only the usual cast and crew anecdotes but spend a great deal of time on the technical aspects of the shoot, camera set ups, locations, compositions etc. A little dry for those not too interested in such things, but it is amazingly informative and consistent throughout.

    The Making of August: Osage County (19.45) – A brief time with the cast and crew as they talk about the filming in general and the ‘true life story’, characters, the director’s vision, music and cast well-being in particular.

    On Writing with Tracy Letts Featurette (07.39) – A short time with the Pulitzer Prize winning writer as he discusses the story, its genesis, his influences and the authenticity of the characters.

    Deleted Scenes – Thirteen in total, five with optional commentary from director John Wells and cinematographer Adriano Goldman.

    Is Osage County Blu-ray Worth Buying

    August: Osage County Is Osage County Blu-ray Worth Buying

    August: Osage County was nominated for and indeed won many prestigious awards, and rightly so as it has superior talent both in front of and behind the camera and everyone gives superlative performances. Nothing can be faulted in terms of dramatic narration and perfect framing. But, the film itself puts you through the wringer as every character, save one, is thoroughly unlikable, in emotional throws or just plain vicious. As the film progresses more and more skeletons are forced from the closet and all the characters become darker and darker; even the lighter moments are tinged with sadness, with the final glimmer of hope being far too little far too late. Is it a good film? That depends on your point of view; technically it cannot be faulted, emotionally it is a rollercoaster but whether or not that makes it enjoyable depends on the individual.

    Emotionally it is a rollercoaster but whether that makes it enjoyable depends on the individual

    Irrespective of the film itself, EiV’s Blu-ray package presents a stunning picture in terms of detail and colour, seldom do discs look this good, and it has a subtle sound track to match. The extras package is pretty good the jewel being the technically orientated chat track that conveys plenty of information. If emotionally traumatic family drama is your thing, then the film is for you, otherwise you might find it a bit too much like real life to enjoy.

    Suggested retail price when reviewed: £24.99

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