While we weren’t too keen on John Wells‘ adaptation of Tracey Letts‘ “August: Osage County” (you can read our review here), that doesn’t mean that the film isn’t still a heavy Oscar contender, especially with the star wattage of the cast (Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Benedict Cumberbatch, Ewan McGregor, the list goes on) and the raw schmoozing power of its producer, Harvey Weinstein. One thing that seems to be very much in the air, though, is the nature of the ending, which was changed at the last minute due to test audience reactions and Weinstein’s insistence, but could still go back before the movie’s theatrical opening in December. Read on for details of the saga; spoiler warning, for those who care about the downbeat conclusion to a Pulitzer Prize-winning play that ran on Broadway for a hundred years.
According to a rundown on Vulture, the original version of the “August: Osage County” stage play ends with matriarch Violet (played by Streep), alone in her home. She has run her entire family out following the death of her husband, including her eldest daughter Barbara (Roberts). It ends on loneliness and solitude. The movie version ends almost exactly the same way, up to a point: Violet tries to put on music after everyone has gone, but it fails. Soon she’s calling out to the family members who left her. She’s alone. So far so good, right? Well, not so fast: the movie then cuts to Barbara driving away. For a minute and a half it’s just Roberts looking like a movie star. This is what passes for a more “optimistic” ending, apparently.
While talking to the Los Angeles Times, Wells admitted he was forced into the “upbeat” ending by poor test scores from a preview audience and Weinstein’s insistence. In fact, it’s a battle that’s still raging, even after the TIFF screening. “I’m not sure I’m OK with doing it that way,” director Wells told the Times. “I don’t want to say there’s anything wrong with the current ending, because there isn’t. But it’s something we’re still talking about. We don’t open for three months, and it’s possible you’ll see something different.”
So the question remains: will it change, or more importantly, can it change? Weinstein is gunning for Oscars, and he knows that a happier film is more likely to get them. This is, after all, the man who secured a win for the frothy “Shakespeare in Love” over the more punishing “Saving Private Ryan” (and more recently got the stuffy “The King’s Speech” a win over the chillier, more modern “The Social Network“). As hard as Wells might fight, it’s hard not to imagine Weinstein trumping him.