MSN: Meryl Streep – 12 great performances, photos

Just found a small article on MSN about Meryl and a little about some of her movies, reviews. At the end, of course, it includes the “Hope Springs” performance! I believe the title must be “14 great performances”. Also some pictures, read it full below:

At the 2009 Screen Actors Guild Awards, when she heard her name (Best Leading Actress, “Doubt“), Meryl Streep looked majorly dumbfounded. She fairly flew to the stage, holding her arms joyously aloft. Breathlessly, the radiant lady in elegant evening pants chortled her surprise:

I didn’t even buy a dress! Can I just say there is no such thing as the best actress, there is no such thing as the greatest living actress … I am in a position where I have secret information, that I know this to be true.

There was more, just as eloquent and gracious, an authentically charming performance. Emphasis on “performance.” Anyone familiar with Streep’s formidable craft as an actress might be forgiven for noticing how precisely the scene had been paced and shaped, down to her “breathless” delivery, from the very first moment her name was announced!

And there’s the rub. America’s “greatest living actress” sometimes runs like clockwork, her style too calculating, cerebral, controlled. Streep can armor herself up in a character (and accent), flawlessly acting the hell out of the role. But occasionally, as a non-admiring Katharine Hepburn once snarkily observed, you can hear the “click, click, click” of wheels turning in the actress’s head.

Still, no less a diva than Bette Davis claimed Streep as her legitimate heir. And when Meryl Streep is firing on all cylinders, few can match her wattage. Even in a crappy movie that asks nothing of her, this star can suddenly take fire, shining a light on some terrible or beautiful truth.

Oscar fell in love with Streep for the first time for her promising (supporting) performance in “Kramer vs. Kramer” (1979). After passionately embracing her for “Sophie’s Choice” (1982), Golden Boy jilted this classy dame a dozen times over a period of 25 years, not even giving her the time of day for what was arguably one of her best and most natural performances ever in Robert Altman’s “A Prairie Home Companion” (2007). But there she was again last February hauling away her third statue (from a staggering 17 nominations) for her performance in “The Iron Lady“.

For her next act the versitile Streep swings back to comedy with “Hope Springs“, in which she plays opposite Tommy Lee Jone as an aging couple looking to put some spice back in their marriage by seeing a counselor played by Steve Carell.

The Deer Hunter” (1978)

She’s not the main attraction, just the girl loved and left behind by beautiful, doomed Christopher Walken and his best friend Robert De Niro. But in the film’s opening wedding scene, a wonderful celebration of community, Streep shines like some lovely locus of promise, too delicate a flower to survive an abusive brute of a father and the ugliness of a Pennsylvania coal town. Amid a swirl of dancers, she catches De Niro watching her, and the intensity of his gaze stops her dead. She aims a puzzled, yearning gaze at him, as though she’s never seen him before. That odd, vital connection fizzles when all he can manage is drunken fumbling, and she returns to the dance to accept Walken’s proposal of marriage. At the somber end of “The Deer Hunter,” all the color and motion of that hopeful young woman has drained away, and the community has shrunk to a clutch of war-scarred friends. Someone starts humming, and Streep’s fine, clear voice takes up the words of “God Bless America,” more dirge than hymn. Somehow, this young actress turns what could have been a minor, generic character into an indelible image of paradise lost.

The French Lieutenant’s Woman” (1981)

Streep plays two roles here, one a passionate 19th-century misfit and the other the sophisticated actress cast as the misfit in a modern-day movie. In the Victorian past, Streep is all Romantic heroine, a wild girl with alabaster skin and disheveled mane of red hair who runs with the wolves (or at least men). The first time we see her, poised precariously on the end of a wave-washed jetty, she turns toward us a face of shocking blankness and blasted beauty. It’s a face that promises madness, tragedy, certainly something that surpasses the everyday. Turns out it’s all an act, but even so. Streep’s shtick, staring into the camera all suggestive and hungry-eyed, gets old fast. She simply doesn’t project unbridled sensuality or even much personality, certainly not enough to vamp a man (Jeremy Irons) into destroying his life to have her. Streep’s present-day movie star is even less engaging; she coolly enjoys an affair with her co-star (Irons, again) and then moves on, her brow unfurrowed by guilt or regret.

Silkwood” (1983)

Streep deserved Oscar’s nod for this one. Often criticized for being cold and aristocratic, she gets way inside the proletarian skin of Karen Silkwood, who sports a modified mullet and whose couture of choice is jeans and a sleeveless T. Here’s an earthy, good-time gal who doesn’t take her work at a plutonium-processing plant too seriously, enjoys her hunky boyfriend’s uncomplicated sexuality (Kurt Russell), and her other roommate’s abiding friendship, lesbian or not (Cher). Yes, Streep deepens Silkwood’s character, as the feckless young woman matures into an activist, fighting for less dangerous working conditions. But what’s really memorable about the performance is the way she expresses this remarkable girl’s natural physicality, the democratic largesse of her affections. If there’s calculation in Streep’s accumulation of detail about the way a certain kind of woman moves and speaks and occupies space, I don’t want to hear about it.

Out of Africa” (1985)

The big complaint is that this African adventure / love story is total fantasy. So what? Can’t we occasionally enjoy the power of two charismatic movie stars, coming together in breathtakingly beautiful locales, to evoke some form of mythic romance? As Karen Blixen, who starts a coffee farm in Africa, falls in love with a handsome, Hemingway-esque white hunter and later becomes renowned writer Isak Dinesen, Streep is independent, competent, and utterly tranced by her (often absent) lover. This is an actress who can flat-out monopolize the camera, so strong is her style of expression. But when partnered with a performer who, even still or silent, draws the eye like a magnet, asRobert Redford does, Streep expresses a rich range of reactions. It’s through conversations and storytelling, and the silences in between, that Redford and Streep take each other in and become intimate. On safari, he washes her hair, and she turns her face up to him as though the still-golden Redford were the sun, and she might drink him.

Ironweed” (1987)

OK, you want reality? “Ironweed” serves it up with a trowel. On the Depression-dreary streets of Albany, N.Y., Jack Nicholson, on the bum since he accidentally killed his infant son, hooks up with a couple of other worn-out souls (Tom Waits and Streep) for a bout of booze, hallucinations and death. Streep’s a radio crooner fallen on hard times. She looks like hell, nose all red and pinched, baggy-eyed, blotchy skin, bad teeth. Staggering around Albany’s mean streets in a ratty old coat, sleeping in an abandoned car, she’s on her last legs; by the way she keeps clutching her side, you just know there’s a fatal disease in the offing. In a saloon, she takes the stage to belt out “He’s My Pal,” catching some of her onetime glory, but it’s just a wine-fueled dream. Not surprising Oscar gave Streep another nom; he always falls for actresses who play drunks and mess up their good looks.

A Cry in the Dark” (1988)

If audiences don’t always warm up to Streep because she seems too self-contained, even cold and inaccessible, she made those negatives work for her in her portrayal of Lindy Chamberlain, an Australian woman convicted of murdering her child though she consistently claimed a dingo had run off with the infant. Lindy grieves for the lost baby, then proceeds to get on with her life, her sensible attitude failing, of course, to endear her to those who find her calm “unnatural.” Brought to trial, she’s unlikable, even condescending, in her refusal to turn her insides out for the pleasure of press and courtroom spectators. As her husband falls apart under the pressure, the accused mother, now pregnant with another child, seems preternaturally strong, even hard. Streep never sugarcoats this woman to make her more palatable or the movie more upbeat. She rubs our noses in the way we resent folks in trouble who refuse to feed the TV (and movie) cameras and our appetite for their pain.

Postcards from the Edge” (1990)

Hard not to fall in love with Streep here. As a ditzy, coke-addicted Hollywood actress, she wrestles with her demons in a radiantly comic style that recalls Carole Lombard. Tossing off smart-ass repartee, working deadpan and double takes, unreeling sarcastic monologues sotto voce as her chief demon (her diva mom) screeches on obliviously, Streep was clearly born to play screwball. What she has mastered here is the art of reaction, so that you can’t take your eyes off her even in two-handed scenes with scenery eaters like Shirley MacLaine, Gene Hackman, Dennis Quaid, et al. Everybody’s a narcissist in the Dream Factory (on- and off-screen), and somehow that reality frees up Streep to let go big time. And let go she does when she belts out a country music anthem, shakin’ her booty and bangin’ tambourine all over the stage. The lady’s rarely been so irresistible. Look for her again, all grown up, in “A Prairie Home Companion.”

One True Thing” (1998)

She may not be up to her professor husband’s smarts, but Streep’s small town Madonna loves doing “creative things around the house” and working on community projects. Then she gets cancer, and her journalist daughter (Renée Zellweger) is called home to care for a woman she mostly holds in contempt. As you might guess, daddy’s girl discovers much to admire about her mother, while her faith in her father’s superiority is almost entirely shattered. All very predictable, just what you would expect from this brand of tearjerker. And then suddenly, Streep cuts through all of the sentimentality and easy assumptions. Sitting on the floor, photograph albums open around her, the dying woman reveals how much she really knows and understands about marriage’s interwoven gifts and compromises. Streep fairly blazes in this monologue, like some Ingmar Bergman heroine loosing lacerating truths about husbands and wives. Cancer sagas turn Oscar on, but the one true thing in this weeper is that single, shattering scene.

The Bridges of Madison County” (1995)

Traditionally, Streep rarely gives herself up to l’amour fou. Takes two for that particular tango, and mostly she dances solo to her own rhythms. The exceptions are “Out of Africa,” with Redford, and “Bridges,” with Clint Eastwood. And in both films, sexual chemistry grows out of long conversations, accidental touches, delayed gratification. Her Iowa farmer’s wife, who once cherished very different dreams, continually wraps her arms around herself, as though to keep something from breaking out. She’s impatient, jumpy, as if she has misplaced or forgotten some item of importance. Her bare feet betray a taste for a freer, more sensuous life. The moment when she stops fluttering like a sparrow caught in a cage, and totally focuses her attention on Eastwood, she’s suffused with an erotic stillness, as though finally settling into her own flesh. “Bridges” isn’t really a movie, but rather a meditation for grown-ups, a tableau vivant, as the beautiful minds and bodies of two superb, simpatico actors address each other in various forms of sensual embrace.

Music of the Heart” (1999)

Another true story, this one about a divorced mother of two who starts an inner-city school program to teach kids how to play the violin. (Do you need to be told that Streep practiced all day long for weeks until she learned how to fiddle?) The film’s full of adorable children of color, totally bogus as real inner-city (or any other) types. Streep’s plain Jane, decked out in bangs and shaggy pageboy and shapeless, flowered housedresses, talks in a sing-songy, good-little-girl voice. No bad people exist in this unreality, except maybe an utterly cartoonish teacher who envies the violin instructor’s success. And there’s a big heartwarming concert at Carnegie Hall with Itzhak Perlman showing up to play with all the saintly kiddies. When Oscar taps Streep for such treacle, he insults her body of estimable work.

Adaptation” (2002)

Streep’s a chic, bespectacled intellectual who travels down to Florida to interview a sweaty swamp rat (Chris Cooper) about his passion for rare orchids. The longer she swelters in his pickup, taking in his brilliant riffs on everything from plant insemination to evolution, the more this buttoned-down blonde feels she has been sleepwalking through life. Why doesn’t she care about something as passionately as this bayou Bogart, grotesquely missing his two front teeth? Soon, with a little help from some hallucinogens, the lady from New York’s gone all Katharine Hepburn (see “African Queen”), rolling around in the hay with her noble savage. In a super-witty film that keeps its tongue firmly in cheek regarding Hollywood script-writing clichés, Streep lets her hair down in grand style, clearly in on spoofing her own history of dead-serious dramatic roles. Check out her Suzie-Q, high as a kite on orchid dust, crooning dial tones on the phone with her besotted lover.

The Devil Wears Prada” (2006)

If not for Streep, this rag-trade movie would hardly be worth watching — well, OK, kudos to Emily Blunt as budding bitch and Stanley Tucci as a sooooo gay designer. First, Streep’s Miranda Priestly is sheer pleasure to look at, a gorgeous ice queen coiffured in that perfect, pure-white bob, blessed with cheekbones and couture to die for, and driven by all the efficient grace and appetite of the monstrous mother in “Aliens.” Second, savor her repertoire of frigid glares, disdainfully arched brows and half-smiles, her “oh my god, why is this insect addressing me?” double takes, the way she dismisses what little space a servitor occupies in her universe with, “That’s all.” You can imagine her querying her looking glass, “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all?,” or plotting to get hold of a passel of puppy pelts for a “Dalmatian spots” line of fashion. She is, in short, the paradigm of beautiful bitchery — but Oscar-worthy? Not by a long shot.

Hope Springs” opens in theaters Wednesday, Aug. 8.

Plus: View a slideshow of images from “Hope Springs”

Video: ‘Geeking Out On’ Meryl Streep



3 thoughts on “MSN: Meryl Streep – 12 great performances, photos

  1. She is one brilliant actress and a wonderful person.Cheers.Jalal

    Anna – I knowwww, isn’t she?! 😀 I just love her!! I really hope one day to meet her and I am hoping for other Streepers, who hasn’t met her yet too! :/

  2. Valuable info. Lucky me I discovered your site by chance, and I am surprised why this twist of fate didn’t came about earlier! I bookmarked it.

    Anna – Aww thank you so much! ^^ It means a lot to me to know it! 🙂

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