You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.
~ Jesus 

Recently I posted a warning review about August: Osage County on my personal Facebook page. 

Here is what I said: 
They say, 'Don't judge a book by its cover." Tonight I add, "Don't select a movie by its actresses." Wish we would have walked out the first five minutes of August: Osage. I just kept thinking that Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts were too good to do a trashy movie with no redeeming element to the story. WRONG! Do not waste your money. It only gets worse as the movie unfolds. Apparently the writer skipped the lesson on conflict resolution. A complete waste of time and money unless you like to listen to people tear each other apart and spew profanity for over 2 hours.

In response, one of my Facebook friends commented that she thought the acting was great and the movie, powerful. She added that life isn’t always tied up with pretty bows.

I get that. 

Many of you know that I’ve lived through the very tragedy (the suicide of my own father) that brought the family in this movie together for the unfolding drama that ensued.

Suicide is never easy. It is never pretty.

I get that.

What I don’t get is the static characters and tedious plot line of this film. 

Or perhaps, I do. 

There are three lenses through which we can choose to view life. The first is what this movie portrayed ~ the self-centered, blame everyone for my own failings, woe is me and life sucks viewpoint. The second is an unrealistic opposite ~ all is rosy and life should always be tied up with pretty bows. 

Then there’s the third. 

Life can be ugly, people can be cruel, but there is good ~ real good ~ that can come from even the most difficult trials. 

In this writer’s opinion, the third lens is the one that creates the most powerful dramas. I'm talking stories where the audience is not protected from the heartbreaking tragedies in life and yet is given a view into the power of hope.

How does it profit me to sit in a theater and watch people tear each other down for two hours then leave feeling stuck in darkness at the end? Where is the value in that message?

Although the writer of Osage gave me a glimpse into the damaged souls that caused the dysfunction in this family, the overriding theme remained that life sucks, and if you have a dysfunctional family you are doomed to be bitter and have a horrible life yourself unless you run for the hills and never look back. Even when two of the sisters in this ‘family’ actually get a glimpse of hope for their futures, it is immediately squashed with unsavory plot twists foreshadowing darkness guaranteed to dash those hopes. It’s as if the message is this: there’s no future for anyone from a dysfunctional home. 


And whose family is actually ‘functional’ in our fallen world? 

There is a Truth missing in this film and in much of Hollywood today. That truth was communicated by an innocent man who endured torture, real physical gut-wrenching torture, and did not cry, “woe is me.” Rather he conquered darkness and showed that light is the greater power ~ a concept lost on those who made August: Osage County.

It seems vogue in some segments of Hollywood to magnify darkness and snuff out the light. What is the goal? To communicate doom? To excuse wounded people from growing toward a greater good because the past inevitably controls the future?

I’m not saying that a movie must be completely upbeat, or spiritually inspiring in nature to have redeeming qualities and value. That’s not the point. The point is that when we, as a culture, choose to embrace and elevate dramas like Osage, we endorse a viewpoint that encourages and enables people to wallow in themselves and their hopeless state.

Thankfully, not all film makers buy into the darkness.

Contrast this approach of cynicism and gloom in August: Osage County with the powerful message of redemption in Saving Mr. Banks. Tom Hanks, Emma Thompson, and Collin Farrell deliver a heart-wrenching drama about two very real people (Walt Disney and author P. L. Travers). As the story unfolds, we learn of the tragic childhoods of both Travers (the author and creator of Mary Poppins) as well as Walt Disney himself. 

Their performances ~ flawless. The message ~ powerful. 

Here were two characters ~ real life characters, I might add ~ who suffered greatly in childhood. Yet, out of the darkness of their past, they flooded the world with light.


Because they did not buy into the dysfunctional family = hopelessness equation portrayed in Osage. 

And the world is better a place because of that. 

So, Hollywood, who wins the acclaim this spring? The fictional characters portrayed by Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts and the rest, who remain in the muck, wallowing in hopeless darkness from the first scene through the very credits at the end? Or Tom Hanks, Emma Thompson, Collin Farrell and cast who portray real life three-dimensional characters rising up from the mire and delivering us the gift of hope. 

Any guesses out there? 

So here’s my perspective for the day. If you want to leave the theater feeling distraught and reeling from two hours in a prison of darkness, by all means go see August: Osage County. 

However, if you prefer a more balanced and genuine look at the sometimes tragic challenges of life and the good that can rise up in spite of them, head for Saving Mr. Banks.

According to Jesus, a man whose wisdom few would dispute, real truth is not found in a mindset that imprisons us but rather in one which sets us free.