Sweating the details: Notes on “August: Osage County”

Movies are fantasy. We know this. We know that normal people living normal lives don't look like George Clooney or Angelina Jolie (though we can better imagine they might look like Jennifer Lawrence, who is accessable and beautiful), and we know the lives they are living on screen are a kind of heightened reality.

And yet the details, the devil lives in there, and I am here to rant for a moment about movies that skimp on the details. Specifically two, and they're related a bit.

Went to see "August: Osage County." It's not a great movie, but it's a very good one, and has this to offer it: For the first time ever, I actually liked Julia Roberts in a film. She's one big ball of pissed off and even though she has a big bulgy vein in her forehead and a mouth the size of Katniss' Everdeen's bow, I dug the angry JR. This is new for me; bear in mind that I cheered silently at the end of "Steel Magnolias."

But back to the movie. The title itself tells you two things: It is August, and we are in Osage County, Oklahoma. If that wasn't enough to set the scene, you get several references to how darned hot it is (including a story about a parakeet that dropped over from the heat). There's even a shot of a LED screen announcing it's 108 degrees. It is hot. Julia even has to stand in front of a fan, because mom Meryl Streep won't put on the A/C.


Get it? Hot. Boiling. Wretched.

But nobody sweats. Not a drop. The best you get is a kind of sheen, the kind ascribed to pregnant women. There's a light glow on people that suggests that at any moment they might pop a bead. But nobody sweats. At one point, Julia has come home from a funeral and is standing in front of that fan, fanning herself with the panels of her cardigan.

Her cardigan.

Does she take it off? Does she display bare arm and aim those pits at the fan? Hell, no. Later on, she's shown in multiple layers and long sleeves. It's hot! It's 108 degrees! Birds are dying! Does she disrobe in any way to indicate that fewer layers might bring about some relief? She does not.

And in this case, I don't mean to pick on Julia specifically; no one in the film sweats. Not even when Crazy Mom Meryl makes the men put on their jackets when dining at the table. When Margo Martindale fans her back and complains that there's sweat there, and Chris Cooper should check out how sweaty her back is, there is no sweat.

This killed me. For frack's sake, whoever was in charge: No A/C and 108 degrees means sweat. This is a detail that should be in this film. It should have been a slippery puddle of sweat in that film, and it didn't even come close to truly being even moist.

Secondarily, and this is a wider net I'm casting here: I love long hair on women in the movies; I'm not a pixie-haircut kind of gal and have never had my hair that short. So because of that, I'm keenly aware of the 89 times during any given day when you have to get your hair out of your face. Whether with a hairclip, a braid or just a ponytail, that stuff in your eyes gets annoying. It also gets hot. Yet for some reason, in the movies, at times when it seems most important — like times of huge stress or danger — the ladies never think to pull their hair back. It just hangs there. And it ticks me off. This is another "Osage" violation: At any time, does Julia Roberts pin her hair up so it gets off of her neck, instead of laying flat against her head like some kind of awful wig? No? Ding, ding!

There's probably someone out there who can explain that this is all part of a master plan by director John Wells. I'm not so sure. So please note, filmmakers (none of whom are listening): If it's hot, people sweat. Keep it real. And if it's hot or you've got a woman in serious danger, let them pull their locks back. Everybody wins.

And I can stop sweating over it.