Controversy Erupts Over the Ending of August: Osage County

Fans of the play on which the upcoming movie is based are crying foul

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Claire Folger / The Weinstein Company

SPOILER ALERT! The following story reveals details about the final scenes of the movie and play

Following a mostly triumphant premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, the director and producers of August: Osage County have been engaged in a debate with fans over how the movie should end.

It comes down to one fundamental  issue:  Is the ending of the acclaimed play on which this film is based perhaps too harsh and jarring for more sensitive moviegoers?

Let’s catch up first. The movie features Meryl Streep playing Violet, the matriarch of the Weston family, calling her adult children back together to the family home. These adult children are played by such stars as Julia Roberts, Dermot Mulroney, Juliette Lewis, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper and Julianne Nicholson. Much movie-style stuff happens along the way, but we’re only talking about the ending here.

In the Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, the final scene depicts Violet sitting alone on the stairs of her house fully abandoned by her children. A horrible fate that she wholly deserves — this is what all that stuff in the middle was about.

But the John Wells-directed big-screen version shows Barbara Weston (Roberts) driving off, having shifted care of her mother to the movie’s quasi-narrator, a Native American nurse. Fan of the play took notice, of course, and made a ruckus — now leaving us wondering what the final scene of the final cut really will be.

But it turns out there was an earlier cut of the film that hews more closely to the play — and that changes were made prior to its Toronto screening.

So which version will prevail?

Wells tells the Los Angeles Times he leans toward the first ending, but doesn’t see anything wrong with the second version either. “It’s something we’re still talking about,” he says. “We don’t open for three months, and it’s possible you’ll see something different.”

Election Day is approaching — maybe they should just hold a vote.