Friday, January 29, 2010

Meryl Streep – a delectable Shiraz?

If there are two actors who’ve had a great year this year, they’ve been Meryl Streep and Sandra Bullock. While Sandra Bullock made the world stand up and take notice of her ample talent as an actress in ‘The Blind Side’, it was her incredible star power that made ‘The Proposal’ her highest grossing movie (till then, ‘The Blind Side’ has since gone past it.) Meryl Streep on the other hand, had a year that only Meryl Streep can have. In movies with stellar casts (she had Amy Adams and Stanley Tucci in ‘Julie and Julia’ and Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin in ‘It’s Complicated’), she still made the respective films, unequivocally Meryl Streep vehicles. Whether it was her coquettish charm in ‘It’s Complicated’ or her ebullience in ‘Julie and Julia’, she became the women she portrayed, and made us fall in love with them, and her, in the process. Yet who has really loved Meryl Streep?

It's Complicated - Meryl Streep and John Krasinski
Now don’t get me wrong. I do not judge women by their appearance alone. And yet there is a part of me, like there is of most any man, which wants the package to be pretty. For years though, she was all that as an actress, she was ‘Julia’ and ‘Sophie’ and ‘Joanna Kramer’, and we all loved these women. For their strength, for their resolve, but did we really fancy the woman who played them? Maybe some of you did, but a stern looking serious Yale alum isn’t my idea of an ideal prom date. Meryl could be an Oscar staple, but pardon my saying this: she really wasn’t a tabloid-worthy knockout.
Something happened though, somewhere along the way. From being the long suffering wife, the mother with a choice and the victim of unrequited love, Streep began treading the steps of comedy and irony and sardonicism, without leaving the comforts of her inherent ability to morph into another character and make it her own. Some say it was the time her career had its “slump”, but really, Streep was doing something no actress had done before, she was redefining the limitations of an actress of progressing age.
When most of her colleagues, including such names as Jessica Lange, Glenn Close and Diane Keaton were waiting for movie scripts to find a way to them, Streep was trying roles that no other could do. She could be a Suzanne Vale in Mike Nichols ‘Postcard from the Edge’ with the same consummate ease that she had in being Lee in ‘Marvin’s Room’. Never one to shy away from playing significant parts with smaller screen time, she blew the room away with such films as ‘Adaptation’ and ‘The Hours’.
In the midst of all this, when everyone else her age was busy getting botox shots and facelifts, Streep had God to thank for her being busy, because as a result, she forgot to get the “makeover”, that almost always leaves a woman more ghastly than she could ever have been. Perhaps it was her pride in being able to emote, and her reluctance to part with her real expressive face, or perhaps her strong family life, and stable living situation. Whatever it was, Meryl Streep was doing what no actress had done before, and no actress seems to be willing to do again; she was aging gracefully.
Then there came ‘The Devil Wears Prada’. The actress best known to bedeck her mantelpiece with reminders of holocaust tragedy and broken homes chose to be Miranda Preistly. She wore the couture dresses and called Anne Hathaway fat. She infused into her character an authenticity that one wonders if even the legendary she-devil Anne Wintour could muster. Soft spoken as they come, she laced her every word with such quiet ferocity that you could feel the hairs on the back of your neck on edge every time she walked on to the screen. And an amazing thing happened then: she STILL got an Oscar nomination. And even more amazing than that was: suddenly, Meryl Streep, an almost sexagenarian, became inexplicably hot.
She was Meryl Streep yet, and she followed up the comedic punch of ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ with some fantastic dramatic performances in films like ‘Rendition’ and ‘Lions for Lambs’. Yet she knew she wasn’t done. She had given spark to the candle of unassuming sex appeal that only a powerful woman can exude, and she knew she had to let it burn. Once having quipped that she would “rip out (Madonna’s) throat” for getting the role of Eva Peron in ‘Evita’ over her, Meryl made ‘Mamma Mia!’ her first musical. Shot in the lovely islands of Greece, and receiving lukewarm critical response, Streep still demonstrated that she had found the nerve of her audience. At the ripe old age of 59, she got the biggest box office success of her life, and the highest grossing British film of all time, with over $650 million globally.
After years of speculation of succession, the heir to Betty Davis’ throne had made it plenty clear that she was not ready to give it up to a pretty young thing yet. She went back to her theatre roots with John Patrick Shanley’s adaptation of his own play ‘Doubt’, and with a formidable cast (almost all nominated for acting awards for the film), Meryl Streep came back to her winning ways, notching up records for nominations in both the Academy Awards and the Golden Globes.
Her cutest moment was yet to come. And then it finally did. Not in ‘Julie and Julia’ for which she will no doubt land an Oscar nomination, and potentially even scrape up her third win, but in Nancy Meyer’s ‘It’s Complicated’. A tradition of Meyer’s casting Keaton in her films was broken when she chose Streep for this material. And boy, did she play her cards right. Whether it was running out of a plastic surgeon’s offices or proclaiming in the most adorable manner, “I’m a bit of a slut, aren’t I?” Streep did it all. She even braved some rather risqué jokes for a lady of her age and stature. And therein lays the true beauty of this landmark movie star: she knows her way around the block. Not once did she seem vulgar or inappropriate, not once did she cross the line into Anne Bancroft land. She looked and acted better than she ever had before, and showed unarguably why she has the longevity she has had.
And today, though I wouldn’t have said it before, I’m unashamed in saying that even though I know it is inappropriate, given our age differences, I have the biggest crush on Meryl Streep. Sure she’s Sister Aloysius Beauvier and Karen Silkwood, but she’s also Jane Adler and Donna Sheridian, and boy, are they cute? Accepting her award for ‘Julie and Julia’ she said, “I’ve played so many extraordinary women over the years, that sometimes I get mistaken for one.” I can’t help but think she’s crossed over, and like the finest Shiraz, she just keeps getting better.

1 comment:

  1. Hehe, what a cute article :) You do write so well, m´dear! Let´s send this to Meryl Streep, shall we? ´m sure she´d be more than a little flattered to learn of the interest this dashing young boy has in her ;)