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Entries in Months of Meryl (29)

Thursday
Jul192018

Months of Meryl: The Hours (2002)

John and Matthew are watching every single live-action film starring Meryl Streep. 

#29 —Clarissa Vaughan, a higher-up and hostess of the New York literary scene attempting to throw a party for her dying friend.

MATTHEW:  Even before Meryl Streep stepped before the cameras as the unraveling hostess Clarissa Vaughan on Stephen Daldry’s The Hours, the actress already possessed a role in Michael Cunningham’s Pulitzer-winning, tripartite meditation on love, loss, and Virginia Woolf. Early on in Cunningham’s 1999 novel, Clarissa, while shopping for flower, catches sight of a movie star who may be Streep or Vanessa Redgrave or, much less excitingly for Clarissa, Susan Sarandon emerging from her trailer with an “aura of regal assurance.” Streep’s ephemeral appearance in what will prove to be one of the most pivotal days of Clarissa’s life signifies, quite literally, the sublime; her quasi-cameo is a perfect encapsulation of one of those chance, indirect encounters with a famous face that we use, with varying levels of embarrassment, to distract us from the mundanities of our daily routine, a glimpse of the extraordinary amid the everyday. That Streep the Star, who was gifted a copy of "The Hours" by Redgrave’s late daughter Natasha Richardson, is removed from Daldry’s film speaks to the many, many excisions that occur within any page-to-screen transfer, but it also informs us that Streep’s cinematized Clarissa Vaughan is simply beyond distraction...

I will always appreciate Daldry’s version as a rare if principally partitioned meeting of three extraordinary screen stars...

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Thursday
Jul122018

Months of Meryl: Adaptation. (2002)

John and Matthew are watching every single live-action film starring Meryl Streep. 

#28 — Susan Orlean, a New Yorker writer drawn to the eccentric orchid poacher she is profiling.

JOHN: “Why can’t there be a movie simply about flowers?” asks perspiring screenwriter Charlie Kaufman (Nicolas Cage) to film executive Tilda Swinton from across a table at a posh Hollywood restaurant. “I don’t want to cram in sex or car chases or guns.” One could imagine that Meryl Streep, who has resolutely avoided nudity, drugs, and violence throughout her career, has contemplated this same question. As Susan Orlean, Streep’s outwardly demure and professional demeanor is irreversibly shaken by the oddly captivating John Laroche (Chris Cooper), a Florida orchid hunter, nursery owner, and part-time porn site operator. To watch Streep, at age 53, fire guns, appear nude (read: blatantly Photoshopped) on Laroche’s site, straddle him, and, most incredibly, snort an orchid-based narcotic, getting high and humming along to a phone dial tone, is to experience a dizzying yet satisfying whiplash.

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Thursday
Jul052018

Months of Meryl: Music of the Heart (1999)

John and Matthew are watching every single live-action film starring Meryl Streep. 

#27 — Roberta Guaspari, a real-life violinist and instructor who brought music education to the classrooms of Harlem.

MATTHEW:  One of the pitfalls that tends to come with occupying such a prominent position in the highly public realm of moviemaking is a gradual inability to disappear into the most straightforward of roles. I’m not talking about the magical acts of self-vanishing that allow Daniel Day-Lewis to seemingly become figures as disparate as Bill the Butcher and Abraham Lincoln nor the larger-than-life personas achieved through virtuosic, full-scale deglamorizations by the likes of Elizabeth Taylor and Charlize Theron, but rather the everyday characters who may achieve great things but whose lives are decisively rooted in reality, their appearances neither remarkable nor particularly conspicuous. No matter how hard a performer tries to shed her star persona and immerse herself in distinctly un-Hollywood settings, it is often up to us, the viewers, to forget everything we know about a star in order to actually believe her as, more or less, one of us...

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Thursday
Jun282018

Months of Meryl: One True Thing (1998)

John and Matthew are watching every single live-action film starring Meryl Streep. 

 

#26 — Kate Gulden, a suburban wife and mother dying of cancer.

JOHN: Here’s one true thing: Carl Franklin’s One True Thing is neither a Lifetime movie, an extended soap opera, nor a “chick-flick.” One True Thing is, in fact, a melodrama centered around a middle-aged woman dying of cancer, embellished with music and openly soliciting your tears. The maternal melodrama, a genre which Streep has revisited frequently, remains near the bottom of the genre totem pole, regularly maligned and dismissed by critics for all their attributes: it is proudly emotional, scored and scripted to produce waterworks, and an undisguised movie, unconcerned with presenting realism through its formal elements. One True Thing, like most contemporary maternal melodramas, is familiar and stylistically plain, and the film is admittedly hampered by a hackneyed framing device, but it also takes seriously issues central to women’s lives, exploring a mother-daughter relationship and issues of long-term marriage, especially the concessions made and female labor expended in keeping a household running smoothly. One True Thing deserves to be taken as seriously as Saving Private Ryan or any other masculine meditation on violence released in 1998. To immediately write off the film, and the genre to which it belongs, is to devalue and belittle the feminine concerns it explores...

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Thursday
Jun212018

Months of Meryl: Dancing at Lughnasa (1998)

John and Matthew are watching every single live-action film starring Meryl Streep. 

 

#25 — Kate Mundy, the elder head of a matriarchal clan in Ireland’s County Donegal circa 1936.

MATTHEW: Dancing at Lughnasa continues the sporadic but prestigious practice, begun by Plenty and leading up to August: Osage County, of Meryl Streep headlining big-ticket Broadway plays in screen adaptations that tend to do a disservice to the often truncated works whose very suitability for such stage-to-cineplex transfers feels rather strained. (Angels in America, made for HBO, is obviously a highly distinguished exception.) These films are greenlit as glorified acting showcases in the hopes of magnetizing a similar haul of trophies as their acclaimed theatrical predecessors. They may feature some fine, forceful performances (from Streep and several others), but their claims as cinema remain dubious at best.

I’m always curious about why Streep seldom returns to her first love, the stage, especially when one considers that the actress’ greatest role in the last decade was not Susan Orlean, Clarissa Vaughan, or Miranda Priestley, but Bertolt Brecht’s Mother Courage, whose wagon of wares Streep took up for a 2006 Shakespeare in the Park production, four years after playing Irina in The Seagull for the same summer series...

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Thursday
Jun142018

Months of Meryl: Marvin's Room (1996)

John and Matthew are watching every single live-action film starring Meryl Streep. 

 

#24 —Lee, a frazzled single mom and aspiring hairdresser who reunites with her ailing sister.

JOHN: Marvin’s Room begins with a slow outward zoom of assorted pill bottles and other medical paraphernalia scored to whimsically upbeat music that immediately establishes the film’s split personality between dysfunctional family comedy and sentimental illness drama. We soon learn that the titular Marvin is the bedridden and near-death father of Bessie (Diane Keaton) and brother of Ruth (Gwen Verdon), three members of a looney Floridian family. No sooner than Marvin’s illness and medical routine is introduced, Bessie is herself diagnosed with leukemia by Dr. Robert De Niro (who also produced the film). He recommends that Bessie's family members be tested for a possible bone marrow transplant. This diagnosis is the film’s engine, reuniting her with her sister Lee (Meryl Streep) and nephews Hank (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Charlie (Hal Scardino), bridging a twenty year gap between this estranged family...

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