In August: Osage County, Meryl Streep is a pill-popping Tyrannosaurus rex in a black bouffant wig. Julia Roberts is a weather-parched velociraptor in mom jeans. And when these mother-daughter dinosaurs go at it, expect things to break: mostly dinner plates, but also hearts, eardrums and any shred of goodwill that survives in this seriously twisted family. Alongside all that destruction, don't be surprised if your patience breaks as well. This screen adaptation of Tracy Letts' Pulitzer Prize-winning play operates at such a consistently high pitch that it numbs rather than blisters. The film finds a family reunited in northern Oklahoma following the death (it's presumed a suicide, and we can hardly blame him) of Beverly Weston, a hard-drinking poet. His wife, Violet (Streep), suffers from mouth cancer, but that doesn't stop her from spewing endless streams of bilious invective at her three daughters. Letts' play won raves for its ability to imbue soap opera-style revelations with fiery humor, but John Wells' directorial hand is so weak that the film just plays as a succession of histrionic showdowns. Streep exceeds even her own stratospheric standards for scenery-chewing, purloining any sense of surprise from her character. As the oldest daughter, Roberts fares somewhat better, with a few moments so arrestingly aggressive you might forgive what's come before. But then another plate shatters and, with it, any sense of charity.
SEE IT: August: Osage County is rated R. It opens Friday at Cedar Hills, Moreland, Lloyd Mall.