Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Just asking

Has Meryl Streep ever been in a movie really worth seeing?

12 comments:

Christian Lindke said...

Were my children to posit this question, with any seriousness, it would be time for them to "sit down" in the other room.

Sometimes your contrariness is so reflexive as to produce nonsense statements. This is one of those times.

Now go sit down and count to ten. Then we can watch a little "Mamma Mia!" together and forget this ever happened.

Generic said...

"The Deer Hunter"

"Manhattan"

"Kramer vs. Kramer"

"The River Wild" (Curtis Hanson)

"Adaptation"

"The Devil Wears Prada"

Tulkinghorn said...

I grant you Adaptation, and probably Deer Hunter but I wonder about that... I'd like to see it again.

(I liked Doubt, too)

Manhattan, which I loved as a youth, has more than too much of the air of paedophilia about it these days -- Besides, she's only in it for about two minutes.

Kramer and Devil are piffle. River Wild, I haven't seen.

This is interesting, though -- the performances suggested by tasteful people of good will are pretty straight-forward, non-Streepian, if you will, roles.

Maybe she has a talent for doing what she's not famous for. Nonetheless, with her training and brains, her career seems to have been largely wasted on material beneath her.

And these days, she's just irritating.

Generic said...

Accidentally rejected a comment just now that I meant to accept. Please re-comment if you want to.

Generic said...

Besides, the original challenge was naming films she's been in that are worth watching. That's been done.

A lot of my favorite movies are "piffle," BTW. Also favorite booksm opera, TV shows. If you're being honest, yours, too.

This is almost getting into "save it for your shrink" territory.

Tulkinghorn said...

I suggest that the oeuvre of the most acclaimed and beloved American actress alive is somehow less than it's cracked up to be, and you suggest that I might be mentally ill?

In China, they criminalize dissent. In Soviet Russia and on the Hungry Ghost blog, they clap you in a loony bin.

I don't believe for a moment that Prada and Kramer are among your favorite movies - or that there are more than a handful of movies on Streep's CV that are better than any random episode of The Wire.

She needs to go work for Tarentino, who will know how to write for her...

(I commend to your attention a story by James Thurber called "The Breaking Up of the Winships", about an argument that gets out of control. The argument begins here:

Marcia asked him, quietly enough, just exactly what actor on the screen or on the stage, living or dead, he considered greater than Garbo. Gordon thought a moment and then said, as quietly as she had put the question, "Donald Duck.")

Generic said...

The comment I accidently rejected. from JRSM:

"Adaptation" maybe, but the rest... And when I saw 'The Devil Wears Prada', I couldn't believe all the fuss that had been made about her and it. It was a bit of fluff, and she was a cartoon.

It's weird--I'd say she was a really good actress, but has never been in a truly great film.

Generic said...

If movie A is piffle, and some of your favorite movies are piffle, then movie A must be one of your favorites? Maybe not.

Christian said in a another context recently that you were protesting too much. I can't believe you really care all that much about Meryl, overrated or otherwise. So why don't you tell what's really on your mind? Lean back on the couch, take some deep cleansing breaths...

Christian Lindke said...

I very much enjoy The Devil Wears Prada, though I view it through the lens of Streep as protagonist. She is the most interesting and believable character, with the most interesting story arc.

The Hathaway character is a throwaway. She is, according to my wife, the "worst assistant ever." An assessment made largely due to the character's absolute lack of ability to plan for the future, or have "back up plans."

I find the kind of character portrayed by Hathaway annoying. The "ivy league grad scion of intellectuals who deigns to work in the trenches of the bourgeois until they can 'find themselves' or get their 'real job'" is taxing to watch. I always want to tell them to "Shut the fuck up!" The character is shallow and doesn't truly observe the world around him/her (in this case her), and never grows in any meaningful way. They have merely "survived a gauntlet." If they have "awakened," it's to some triviality.

Let me give you an example of the kind of utter lack of observation manifest in the storyteller in Prada. There is a scene where Hathaway is gathered with a group of friends for evening drinks. During the scene Hathaway receives a high volume of calls from her boss. Her friends, a young associate at a law firm who has only recently graduated law school, an aspiring chef, and a person opening their own art gallery -- mock her and steal her phone while telling her she "works too hard."

You know who does that? No one. Certainly not young major law firm associates, who are lucky to see the light of day. Certainly not aspiring chefs, who are lucky to see the light of day. Certainly not someone actively promoting the opening of a small business in a difficult market (an art gallery). Every one of these people would understand how work never seems to end.

The only person who would behave in the manner portrayed is someone who hasn't really had to work all that hard -- like the author of the book.

Thankfully, the director and screenwriter added more depth to the "villain" of the piece and in doing so demonstrated just how much work successful people do.

If I viewed the film as Hathaway's character's story, I would despise it. Since I don't, I quite like it. It's no Momma Mia!, but then again -- not much is.

As for your criticism regarding the "types" of movies that the greatest actress of our age has starred in. I think this is as wrongheaded a statement as could ever be made.

Maureen O'Hara is one of my favorite actresses of all time. She lights up the screen and brings amazing depth to the characters she portrays. She starred in Westerns, Pirate Movies, Fantasy Films, and saccharin Christmas fare. She was even in the Parent Trap for God's sake!

And you know what? It is all wonderful. Her portrayal of Kate in The Quiet Man is so wonderful. Movies and performances like that, and like her Western and Fantasy films, are why I go to the movies.

You're being obtuse. Go back to watching Lars von Trier.

Tulkinghorn said...

The antipodean JRSM is almost there in the realization that most of her movies are "not truly great"...

And Christian is also in accord in his strong argument -- that I would never try to deny -- that great performances (in fact great careers) are possible in mediocre movies.

I seriously believe -- and it's not posturing -- that Streep's talents consist entirely in the recreation of surfaces -- in getting this twitch and that accent and the other gesture right -- and not in the illumination of character from inside. And nowadays, of course, she's become Hollywood's wet dream of a wealthy and tasteful woman of a certain age.

As a matter of fact, her superficiality was until recent years the conventional wisdom about her, now forgotten in the general degeneracy of the times and in the quasi-feminist celebration of the rebirth of her career.

Her name came up yesterday in the context of her sixteenth (!) Oscar nomination. I can react to this either (a) by reminding myself how lame the Oscars are (a subject which even I find boring at this point) or (b) by trying to think about what it is about her that I find so bland and disappointing.

Instead, I find myself in the position of someone who denies transubstantiation. Degenerate times indeed...

Generic said...

Hey! Us degenerates represent that that remark!

I'm hardly the world's biggest Streep fan. Perhaps it's the immoderate quality of your remarks that invites the same in response?

Surfacey acting certainly doen't work as well in movies or generate as much emotionl power as something that comes from a deeper well (cf. Jeff Bridges, in another movie you almost certainly haven't seen), but it can still be fun to watch.

C. Bottomley said...

During the Mike Nichols retro at MOMA last year, I found myself charmed by both Silkwood--which seemed to get the working class right--and Heartburn--which did the same for the moneyed class. Streep is very good in Silkwood; it's a character which jibes with her interesting look. Most of her recent work has been bill-paying.