It’s rare in American Cinema to encounter a film with multiple complex and oft unflattering female characters. A recent article in Think Progress explored American viewers ongoing love affair with the television male anti-hero like Tony Soprano (The Sopranos) or Walter White (Breaking Bad), among others; who commit terrible wrongs and yet the audience is endeared to them. However, Claire Danes’ character Carrie Mathison on the hit program Homeland is the only such female anti-hero that I can think of who garners comparable admiration. Generally speaking, women are not treated as complex characters on television, and less so on the silver screen. More often a woman may be uncharacteristically ugly, like off-screen beauty Charlize Theron in the feature Monster, but the complexity awarded to the male anti-hero type is absent, so she is simply “a monster.” August: Osage County is a wonderful opportunity to envisage truly complex female characters as part of a toxic family dynamic in a whirlwind of verbal abuse, drugs, and codependency along the plains of Oklahoma. The film is a screen adaptation of a Tony and Pulitzer Prize winning play by the same name, written by Tracy Letts. Letts is the son of award-winning, woman writer Billie Letts. As a play August: Osage County enjoyed successful runs in Chicago, Broadway and London. And with the help of celebrity indie producers Grant Heslov and George Clooney, we can now see the play on screen. Letts unflinchingly depicts a dysfunctional family led by poisonous matriarch Violet (Meryl Streep) who finds her greatest contender and humanizer in eldest daughter Barbara (Julia Roberts), who is comparably embittered by life. Both women are whip smart and force all to cower to their wit with biting observations. Barbara is decidedly less destructive than her mother and very attached to her more sensitive father, but cannot escape her upbringing. The film culminates around the funeral for patriarch, Beverly (Sam Shepard), an alcoholic failed writer who apparently kills himself after reaching the end his tether. As sisters Ivy and Karen (played with nuanced understanding by Julianne Nicholson and Juliette Lewis, respectively), and a cast of familial characters descend on the home, the audience is at once introduced and assaulted by years of neglect and resentments that entertain in a manner much like a Tennessee Williams play, but with less gravitas than the works of Eugene O’Neill. Some critics find the lack of make-up, stage play direction (by veteran television writer/producer/director John Wells), and focus on challenging women as hard to take. Despite some possible shortcomings in direction, screen adaptation, casting, and a largely male production team August: Osage County is a difficult and ultimately satisfying film. Plus, at the very least, we see a number of dynamic women playing off one another without holding back the good, bad and the ugly.