While watching the film August: Osage County (more on that here) I thought every once-a-once about something being amiss. Specifically, while the movie rambled on and Julia Roberts struggled with her cursing, I thought about diet pizza. Is there such a thing? Low-fat cheese atop less salted tomato sauce absent of olive oil? How ’bout low-cal salami or sausage? I know. Doesn’t make much sense, does it? Of course, it doesn’t help that I am actually on a diet. Have been for a long time. But my diet is more about lifestyle and changing that lifestyle and not so much about “diet”. Which means I don’t eat pizza anymore. But that’s neither here nor there. And if you have to know, as far as diets go, it’s not going well. I think that’s because I think about pizza too much. Either that or I can see through films that were plays and the transition didn’t go very well.
Finished the play August: Osage County by Tracy Letts this morning–a few days after watching the film version. Never before had I been so motivated to read the original (of a movie adaptation). Obviously the thoughts of diets came back to me–and those thoughts, after reading the play, proved I was right. In fact, the thoughts of diets came back to me with a vengeance. And I’m most afeared to admit that these diets, I mean, these thoughts about diets, diets of two different things (play vs film), somehow got intertwined. And not for the good. If there is something grand about the film version of this play, then there is something mega-grander about the actual play.
The reality is, the film version of August: Osage County was put on a major diet for the screen. In fact, the film diet was much worse than my pizza diet. The cheese was left out and there was no tomato sauce. But Letts’ did leave some meat on it–as though it was supposed to be a protein diet or something. And so we can thank Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep for all their brawling and cursing in the film. Now, after reading the original, the question is: why oh why oh why? And worst-writer knows the answer(s).
The film’s script was sculpted by the playwright himself which makes me ask another why or why. How could he leave out the cheese and the olive oily garlic tomato sauce? But then I thought: Is Tracy Letts on a diet, too? At the least, a writer of his caliber, must have been commanded to be on a diet. Tracy Letts for sure wasn’t allowed to put up on the big screen the hard truth his hard play reveals about the great American delusion… sorry. American Dream.
Indeed. The movie is a hint of what the play is really about, which can be summed up thus:
This country was always pretty much a whorehouse, but at least it used to have some promise. Now it’s just a shithole.
The text above is from Barbara in the play, who was played by ill-cursing Julia Roberts in the film. She is having a moment of reflection while considering what to do with her estranged, pharma-addict mother. This text, and much of the play’s text, was not in the film nor was any of the text where Letts’ ingeniously provides an analysis of what America has become based on the wrath of the so-called GREATEST GENERATION that has ruined the whole fucking show.
The story is about a batshit mother hooked on pharmaceutical medication that helps her avoid the realities of raising her broken, incestuous, spoiled rotten family, i.e. the family that is (supposed to be) the American dream. The play is about what happens when generation after generation becomes enamored and drunk on a dream that is really delusion. To worst-writer’s pleasure, Barbara’s mother, Violet, is of the so-called greatest-generation. As it goes, the greatest-generation was born to fight fascism. And fight they did, I guess. But then that generation ends up rearing kids that become fascists. Is this not manifest in the society and politics we’re living in today? Am I the only one to smell the stench of certain political families that embody this manifestation? Just think about recent wars, the profiteering of wars, the mechanics of wars–and most important who the people are, who the generation is, that got us into the wars. New & Improved Nazis, indeed. But I digress.
Letts does not hold back–which means it is a great fucking play. He really nails the delusion that is the American dream. The text/dialog is so smooth and forthcoming, so real and plain, yet profound and stirring, he thoroughly deserves the accolades. In fact, his play is so good that I’m almost motivated to get back into some of those old plays I have in dusty shelves and begin anew–for the world certainly needs more worst-plays. Either that or maybe he might be motivating enough to get me back in the writing-saddle and finish some of those plays I was trying to write that deal with similar cheese and sauce missing from the eternal pizza that is…
Great play. Worth the read.