Before I begin this bracket, I am just going to throw this out here... shockingly, not ALL Meryl movies are available on free streaming platforms. Which means I have actually had to rent at least HALF of these, LIKE A PEASANT. The going rate for renting a movie via Amazon/YouTube these days is $3.99, and so far I have watched TWENTY-TWO AMERICAN MERYL STREEP MOVIES which means I've spent upwards of $44 on #MerylMadness SO......................
Venmo me @Sarah-Joanou
Bridges of Madison County (1995)
Dir: Clint Eastwood
Novel: Robert James Waller
Screenplay: Richard LaGravenese (A Little Princess, The Mirror Has Two Faces)
Starring: Meryl Streep, Clint Eastwood, Annie Corley
Synopsis: "Photographer Robert Kincaid wanders into the life of housewife Francesca Johnson, for four days in the 1960s."
Awards: Nominated for Academy Award for Best Actress (Winner: Susan Sarandon in "Dead Man Walking")
DAMN. So before starting #MerylMadness, the only thing I knew about "Bridges of Madison County" was that in an early episode of "The Office," Meredith Palmer (the exceptional Kate Flannery) said that if she was on a desert island, "Bridges" would be one of her FIVE allowed movies on the island. Frankly, that told me everything I needed to know about this film. And after seeing it... it still kind of does.
Before anything else, I have to say something: I am very glad that diversity in film has made some progress in the last few years or so, but DAMN. It is a legitimate and pervasive issue and we are NOT done fighting for the equal representation of POC, especially women.
For STARTERS, in this film Meryl plays a woman who met her husband during WWII when he was stationed in her small hometown of Bari, Italy. She moved with him back to the US, to his hometown of Iowa on the farm that had been in his family for 100 years. So she's an Italian immigrant... with a very thick Italian accent. Meryl's ethnicity, as described on Wikipedia: Swiss, English, German, and Irish. Her eighth great-grandfather was one of the ORIGINAL PILGRIMS IN RHODE ISLAND FROM ENGLAND. Namely: White AS FUCKKK.
Much like "Out of Africa," her accent was top-notch. But it was significantly less offensive to see her portraying a DANISH woman than an ITALIAN one. Maybe they're both bad? Idk, I just feel like if you have a character who is supposed to have a thick Italian accent, HIRE AN ITALIAN ACTRESS. You know who would've been phenomenal in this role? ISABELLA ROSSELLINI. She's the same age as Meryl and she IS ACTUALLY ITALIAN.
That being said, let's do that Quick Lil' Recap:
- We start with Meryl's ADULT kids, gathering her affairs after her death. They acquire her safety deposit box, with her will and instructions for her body to be cremated and thrown off the Roseman Bridge in town which for some reason REALLY UPSETS EVERYBODY
- In the box they also find a note and a key to her bedroom trunk, which is filled with THREE sexy journals, an old cross necklace, and a brief explanation: years and years ago, Meryl had a four-day affair with a man she still believes to be her soulmate.
- Her son (Victor Slezak) is having A Real Hard Time with it
Son: You don't think... Mom... had... SEX... WITH... HIM?? ....DO.... YOU??
Daughter: Wow, it must be really nice living in your head with Peter Pan and the Easter Bunny.
- Meryl's daughter (Annie Corley) decides to start reading the journals, and we are ~transported~ back in time with Meryl narrating in that goddamn Italian accent
- It is the week of the BIG COUNTY FAIR and Meryl's husband and kids are taking the prize steer to compete #Iowa
- Meryl is just glad to have the house to herself, and to have her clueless hubby and rowdy teenagers stop banging the gosh darn screen door!
- They finally leave and she's doing chores outside when a MYSTERIOUS and SEXY pick up truck comes winding down her dirt road
- It is Clint Eastwood, who is somehow sexy in this parallel universe
- He is a photographer for National Geographic and needs help finding the Roseman Bridge
- Meryl, in her broken Italian-English is having A Hard Time explaining how to get there, also she is presumably flustered from how sexy Clint Eastwood is??
- They go to the bridge, and there is IMMEDIATE ~sexual tension~
- He accidentally touches her ~leg~ while ~reaching~ for the ~glove box~
- He takes his photos and brings her back home, but neither of them are ready to say goodbye, so she asks him inside for some ~sweet tea~
- BWAM bwam bwam BWAM BWAM IT'S NOW A PORNO!
- Just kidding.
- Sweet tea turns into beer, which turns into staying for dinner
- CLINT DOESN'T SLAM THE GOSH DARN SCREEN DOOR, which I assume is the root of all their sexual tension
- They talk ALL NIGHT about his adventures in Africa (hey, Meryl just got Out Of there!) and it's sexy and fun but then Meryl starts getting self-conscious about how "boring" and "simple' her life must seem to him
- Meryl mentions that the most interesting thing that's ever happened in her town is when Lucy Redfield had an affair with some guy, and now she's the Whore Of The Town and that's literally the only thing to talk about
- They have a weird (almost?) argument, he politely says goodnight
- Meryl feels like she spoiled the night, and is bummed out. So she drives to the next bridge he said he'd be taking pictures of, and leaves a note for him asking her to meet him for dinner tomorrow night
- Clint gets her note and is adorably excited. Then he goes into town to have breakfast at a diner, and in walks LUCY REDFIELD, the hussy
- Everyone in the diner is super awful to her. He VERY VALIANTLY offers her a seat next to him, and tries to make small talk and be a DECENT GODDAMN PERSON.
- Okay I sort of see the sexual appeal now. He is aggressively gentlemanly.
- Lucy runs out of the diner anyway; her life is ruined.
- Clint goes to call Meryl and ask if she is SURE if he wants him over for dinner, because he sees how people TALK in this town. Meryl says she's sure. Now the spell is sort of broken, because they've both acknowledged that there is SOMETHING THERE THAT WASN'T THERE BEFORE.
- This time Clint asks to SHOWER at her place, and he puts on a NICE OUTFIT for her
- Meryl takes a bath after him, and lies in the tub SEXILY IMAGINING HIM TAKING A SHOWER RIGHT BEFORE HER
- Sexual tension is at 1000000%
- Meryl puts on a ~sexy dress~ for him, and plays a ~sexy song~ and then they dance ~sexily~
- Clint VERY POLITELY confirms 10000% consent before kissing her
- Uh oh! Sexy time!
- No backsies now
- The next morning they decide to go for a drive somewhere far away where they can touch each other without getting caught.
- They go to some other town and have a sexy picnic and he takes photos of her and she gives him her cross necklace with her name in it
- They go to the one place no one in her small Iowa town would ever find her: a black blues bar, lol
- They drink and talk and flirt, but the bubble is sort of burst when she tries to ask him too many questions about his childhood and family.
"I don't think I can do this, you know? Try to cram a whole lifetime into four days."
- They have one more day together, but it's kind of ruined by the pressure of it being THEIR LAST DAY TOGETHER
- They cry, they fuck, they cry some more.
- Clint asks her to run away with him.
- She packs her bags.
- They have a very painful last dinner.
- He leaves, Meryl sobs some more
- Meryl's husband comes home tomorrow, but Clint will be in town for a few more days. She still has time to change her mind.
- The next day, Meryl and her hubby are at the grocery store picking up some food when MERYL SEES CLINT STANDING IN THE GODDAMN RAIN
- HE IS WAITING FOR HER
- TO CHANGE HER MIND
- MERYL'S HUSBAND COMES OUT OF THE STORE AND GETS IN THE CAR
- HE HAS NO IDEA
- CLINT JUST KEEPS STANDING THERE
- SOMEONE GET THIS POOR WET MAN A TOWEL
- MERYL & HUBBY DRIVE AWAY
- CLINT IS DRIVING IN FRONT OF THEM
- THE LIGHT TURNS GREEN
- MERYL HAS HER HAND ON THE DOOR HANDLE
- SHE MIGHT JUMP OUT AND JUST JUMP IN CLINT'S CAR??
- MERYL'S HUSBAND HONKS
- HE HAS NO IDEA
- CLINT LEANS OVER TO THE GLOVEBOX LIKE HE DID FOUR DAYS AGO AND PULLS SOMETHING OUT
- IT'S MERYL'S CROSS NECKLACE
- HE PUTS IT ON THE REARVIEW MIRROR, HE CARESSES IT. THIS IS HIM SAYING GOODBYE.
- MERYL AND HUSBAND DRIVE OFF.
- MERYL SOBS SOME MORE.
- Husband is just like, "Damn women, always cryin' about somethin'."
- And that's fucking IT. That's the last time they ever see each other.
- Back to "present time," Meryl's daughter reads aloud about how after Meryl's husband died, she tried to find him, but this was pre-Facebook and it was apparently impossible.
- Then one day, she got a box in the mail: Clint had died, and sent her the necklace she gave him, a book of photography he published called "FOUR DAYS," ALL OF HIS MONEY, AND HIS REMAINS TO BE THROWN OFF THE ROSEMAN BRIDGE.
- HE NEVER STOPPED LOVING HER.
- Meryl also writes that after Clint left, she decided to bring over some pie to Lucy the Hussy and they ended up becoming BEST BEST FRIENDS. And because Meryl was an Upstanding Woman, they re-accepted Lucy the Hussy too. Meryl just knew that they both had something in common: BEING SLUTS. Jk jk jk.
- So I guess the kids make peace with their mom being a REAL PERSON WHO ACCIDENTALLY FELL IN LOVE WHILE MARRIED, but honestly I'm still bothered by the fact that THEY NEVER ADDRESS WHETHER OR NOT THEY'D THROW MERYL'S ASHES OFF THE BRIDGE OR NOT????
- Really hope they did.
Okay, so this is another Meryl film where I'm going to have a hard time separating the STORY from the ACTING, because frankly, I feel like there was a disparity there: and it wasn't just the fact that I kept getting really distracted with Meryl's fucking accent.
This should come as a surprise to no one, but the truth is: I THINK MERYL SHOULD HAVE LEFT WITH CLINT. And I feel like there was a "disparity" between her performance and the decision she makes... because while she definitely emotes what it's like to feel TORN in TWO, it seems like LITERALLY EVER FIBER OF HER BEING wants to run away with Clint. And then she doesn't. And I just didn't *believe* that Meryl was really okay with that decision. That being said, damn was this a MASTER CLASS in falling in love slowly. I couldn't help but think of "Romeo & Juliet," another love story that only takes place in four days, and how much BETTER their love story is than that. It's not just teenage lust, it's a real fucking soulmate kind of love. At one point, Clint says: "We're not even two people anymore," and it's true. That's really the kind of shit people spend their whole lives looking for. There is more than one kind of love in this world; some people want the lust, some people want the boring but good farmer husband; but everybody wants that soulmate shit. So why didn't she leave with him?
I have known people who's marriages fell apart because of infidelity. I am not saying that infidelity is okay or a good reason to tear apart a family. It is brutal and heartbreaking and it isn't fucking fair.
How-fucking-ever, I also don't think it's fair that IN EVERY MERYL MOVIE ABOUT INFIDELITY I'VE WATCHED SO FAR, MERYL IS THE ONE WHO HAS TO MAKE THE GIANT GODDAMN SACRIFICE OF STAYING IN A LOVELESS MARRIAGE TO PROTECT HER KIDS. Like yeah, she finally leaves Jack Nicholson at the end of "Heartburn," but it took her WAY too long. And not to jump ahead, but there's another movie I've already watched and haven't reviewed yet where she plays a REGULARLY jilted wife, and it's just a fucking bummer, okay? Like she should've been on that plane with Robert Redford in "Out of Africa," and she should've left with Clint Eastwood on that last fourth night. It would've been a Big Fucking Deal and it would've temporarily destroyed her family, but ultimately I believe it's better for people to be HAPPY than it is to suffer or settle. I know TONS of children from "broken families" and let me tell you, they are no worse off than the ones from un-divorced families! You're going to fuck up your kids no matter what happens, so if you're only staying in the marriage for the kids, at least show them that WOMEN DON'T ALWAYS HAVE TO BE SAD DEPRESSING MARRIAGES TO BE GOOD MOTHERS OR PEOPLE.
I realize I'm wildly over-simplifying this, and that Meryl wouldn't have just been leaving her husband, she'd be literally abandoning her children and probably never see them again. It's a much more complicated circumstance than I'm giving it credit for. Also, I just remembered that she is the home-wrecker in "She-Devil" and "Death Becomes Her," and that she does totally abandon her son in "Kramer v. Kramer" so I guess it's actually pretty 50/50, but STILL. DID YOU SEE HOW WET AND SAD CLINT LOOKED IN THAT RAIN??
I also FULLY BELIEVE that Rory should've drank the magic immortal potion in "Tuck Everlasting," Wendy should've stayed in Neverland, and Ingrid Bergman should've left with Humphrey Bogart in "Casablanca" so MAYBE I'M JUST A FUCKING MONSTER.
Music of the Heart (1999)
Dir: Wes Craven?!?!?!?!?!? (A Nightmare on Elm Street, Scream)
Wri: Pamela Gray (A Walk on the Moon, Conviction)
Starring: Meryl Streep, Angela Bassett, Cloris Leachman, Aidan Quinn, Gloria Estefan
Synopsis: "Story of a schoolteacher's struggle to teach violin to inner-city Harlem kids."
Awards: Nominated for Academy Award for Best Actress (Winner: Hillary Swank in "Boys Don't Cry")
Okay, first things first:
I AM STILL NOT OVER THE FACT THAT THIS MOVIE WAS DIRECTED BY WES CRAVEN????? HAHAHHAHAHAHAH WHAT????? WHY?!??!?!?! IT'S NOT LIKE THIS WAS ONE OF HIS EARLY MOVIES, EITHER!!!! IT WAS LITERALLY MADE IN BETWEEN THE FILMING OF SCREAM 1 AND SCREAM 2!?!?!?!??! I AM SO CONFUSED!!!!!!!!! LOL!!!!!!!
Now that I've got that out of my system... Yep, you guessed right. Time for another rant.
This is actually a serious issue, and I'm going to preface it with the fact that I am a white woman, raised in a white family, and I can therefore only perceive the world as such. That being said, I am to make my feminism as intersectional as possible, because I am very aware of the fact women of color struggle SO MUCH MORE than white women do. It is just a fact. I do my very best to be as honest and educated about what life is really like for people of color without forgetting about the privilege I was born with.
I say all this, because what we have here is, unfortunately, a "White Savior" story.
If you're unfamiliar with the concept, it's a wildly popular Hollywood tradition of having a White Person come into a Person of Color's life and magically MAKE IT ALL BETTER, which makes White People feel better about their White Guilt, and makes POC all the more fucking angry about all the things White People should feel guilty about.
I'm fully cringing at the irony of showing a clip from Seth Meyer as my example, but he made this sketch called "The White Savior Movie" and it's a very succinct explanation of why movies like this are super fucking problematic:
But you should also read this more comprehensive article dissecting the White Savior Narrative in Hollywood, written by the totally badass Fariha Róisín, a queer Muslim writer and podcaster. Excerpt below, article here: Why Hollywood’s White Savior Obsession Is an Extension of Colonialism
So now that we've addressed the White Elephant in the room, we still have Meryl to tackle. Real quick recap:
- Meryl is a sad 90s housewife who's husband has left her. She's living with her two sons at her mother's, played by Cloris Leachman, and having a mid-life crisis.
- Luckily, she goes on ONE DATE with Aidan Quinn, a total 90s fuckboi, who tells her that not only has he 1) had a crush on her since high school, but 2) now that she's re-entering the workforce after being a stay at home mom for 12 years, he has the perfect new job for her!
- ONE CATCH: it's in East Harlem, NYC!
- Meryl doesn't have a lot of options, so she moves to NYC
- Turns out Aidan kind of lied, he only knew about the job, she still has to apply for it
- It's to teach violin at an ~inner city public school~ where the always phenomenal Angela Bassett is principal
- Meryl doesn't really have enough on her resume, and Angela doesn't give her the job. So Meryl drags in her two boys to start playing the violin during one of Angela's meetings, and PROVES that she hasn't "just been a stay at home mom" all these years, she's been teaching her sons how to play violin and if she can teach them she can teach anyone.
- Angela gives her the job!
- Meryl is in over her head! Teaching her two sons is not as hard as teaching a dozen SUPER ADORABLE LITTLE THIRD GRADERS.
- The Oscar goes to Angela Bassett, not only for being amazing, but also for this moment when Meryl is complaining about some bullshit with moving classrooms or something and Angela PULLS OUT A SWITCH BLADE and is like "LISTEN UP BITCH. I PULLED THIS KNIFE OFF A 4TH GRADER TODAY. I GOT BIGGER PROBLEMS THAN YOU DO. FIGURE IT OUT YOURSELF."
- One of the little black boys in her class stops showing up, and when his mom (Rosalyn Coleman) comes to pick him up she asks why. Rosalyn says what everyone should be fucking thinking: "I don't need some white person coming in here thinking they can save my little black boy by teaching him some white person's instrument for a few months, or however long you manage to survive down here before crawling back home to Cloris Leachman's suburbs."
- Meryl is kind of a hard ass!
- She gets busted by one of the parents for being "too mean." She tries being nicer in class and the kids are all like "WHY U BEING SO WEIRD MISS ROBERTA, TALK THE WAY U USED TO, WE LIKED IT BETTER!" Kids say the darndest things.
- Meryl talks with her husband again, turns out he didn't just have an affair and leave her, he officially wants a divorce now. Also her lame boyfriend Aidan is, as we all knew, a huge turdface fuckboi and treats her like garbage. Meryl falls apart some more.
- Meryl bumps into Rosalyn Coleman again and has a moment that I Have Some Feelings About. She basically says: Hey listen, I just want you to know that I'm not a White Savior (TM). My life is falling apart. I'm a fucking mess. I'm not trying to save anybody, I'm just trying to make a living, and I happen to make a living by teaching 3rd graders how to play the violin. You should think about letting your kid back in my class, because he really seemed to love it, and that's what we should be focusing on: not our shit, but on the KIDS. Also, if you want to talk race, what if Arthur Ashe's mother never let him play tennis because it was a "white man's sport?" I know violin is a "white man's instrument" but we're never gonna change that unless we start teaching 3rd grader children of color how to play the violin, right?"
- So, the fucking thing here is: Meryl is, to an extent, right. How-fucking-ever, that does not absolve "Music of the Heart" from being part of the White Savior Narrative canon. Do you know why?
- BECAUSE THE MOVIE IS TOLD FROM MERYL STREEP'S POINT OF VIEW. MAYBE IT SHOULD HAVE BEEN TOLD FROM ONE OF THE KID'S POINT OF VIEWS. OR MAYBE THE CHILDREN SHOULD HAVE BEEN A BIGGER PART OF THE STORY. WE SHOULD HAVE GOTTEN TO KNOW THEM BETTER. IT IS AS MUCH THEIR STORY AS IT IS MERYL'S.
- To be fair, we get to know them a *tiny* bit. She's giving one of her student's shit for not practicing, and asks what her excuse is. "My grandma got mugged this week. She died." So Meryl feels like shit and tells her to just do her best. One of her other students dies in a drive-by shooting and it's super sad. She goes over to the boy's best friend's house to check on him, and they share a sweet moment.
- BUT THAT ISN'T ENOUGH.
- I know you might be thinking, "But this is a TRUE STORY! How can you tell a TRUE story without it being a "white savior narrative" if that's just how it happened?"
- The answer to that is: you're racist!
- Remember "The Blindside"? That terrible fucking Sandra Bullock movie that SHE SOMEHOW WON A MOTHERFUCKING OSCAR FOR??? Yeah, that's the problem: IT SHOULDN'T HAVE BEEN A "SANDRA BULLOCK MOVIE." IT WAS LITERALLY ABOUT A YOUNG MAN OF COLOR OVERCOMING UNBELIEVABLE OBSTACLES TO ACHIEVE GREATNESS. AND HOLLYWOOD MADE IT A MOVIE ABOUT HOW SANDRA BULLOCK WAS SLIGHTLY LESS RACIST THAN HER RACIST FRIENDS. AND ALSO CLASSIST. AND ALSO FUCK SANDRA BULLOCK I DON'T FUCKING GET WHY ANYONE CASTS HER IN ANYTHING, "MISS CONGENIALITY" IS THE ONLY GOOD MOVIE SHE'S EVER BEEN IN AND EVEN THAT'S RUINED NOW BECAUSE OF THE MOTHERFUCKING BLINDSIDE.
Another great article about the White Savior Complex as it pertains to voluntourism, which is still deeply related and reflected in White Savior Narrative films: "Holding up the Mirror: Recognizing and Dismantling the “White Savior Complex” by Janine Guarino. An interesting perspective from a "former white savior," a white woman learning how to navigate her role in appropriately and productively helping others without imposing or ignoring her white privilege.
- Anyways, so Meryl and Angela go on to teach and support the violin program for 10 years across like 5 different public schools, until one day the BUDGET GETS CUT OH NO!
- Meryl goes on a RAMPAGE to get her funding back, and sets up the final concert of the year to be a giant fundraiser for the program.
- WORD SPREADS, there's an article in the New York Times, and CARNEGIE FUCKING HALL donates their space to the fundraiser!!
- Meryl and her 20 adorable students get to play at CARNEGIE FUCKING HALL, and 4 of her original students (now in high school) come join the concert, along with like a BUNCH of famous violin players!!
- Yes, it's cheesy and silly, but it ACTUALLY HAPPENED AND IT IS A LITTLE BIT MOVING, OKAY.
- Naturally, they raise enough money to support the program for the next THREE years, and she starts the Opus 118 Harlem School of Music WHICH IS A REAL THING AND STILL ALIVE TODAY! Check out their website here.
So. Meryl's performance. I could *almost* use the s-word here (shrill), but she wasn't... she weirdly took on this deeper kind of voice that was almost reminiscent of "Postcards from the Edge," but it still had this faint whine to it, this "oh poor me" and "why is this happening to me?" echo. I read some articles about her performance when it was received, and as the great white male Roger Ebert put it: "Meryl Streep is known for her mastery of accents; she may be the most versatile speaker in the movies. Here you might think she has no accent, unless you've heard her real speaking voice; then you realize that Guaspari's speaking style is no less a particular achievement than Streep's other accents. This is not Streep's voice, but someone else's - with a certain flat quality, as if later education and refinement came after a somewhat unsophisticated childhood." WOW!!! Um... what?? "Unsophisticated childhood??" Perhaps a better (and less offensive) description would be Steve Rosen's take on Meryl's performance: "The key to Meryl Streep's fine performance is that she makes Guaspari un-heroically ordinary. Ultimately that makes her even more extraordinary." Now that I can agree with. Meryl truly does look like just a frazzled, newly single mom trying her best. After the "Ten Years Later" mark in the film (about halfway through), Meryl thankfully becomes a heck of a lot more grounded. The squawking, lamenting, and fussing is replaced with "if it was easy, it wouldn't be worth doing" and "we'll give them a hell of a fight." She finds her place in the school ~ and emotionally ~ and becomes a lot more respectable, and more fun to watch.
So I was just going to call this "The Mildly Racist Bracket," but I decided to do some research on the REAL Roberta Guaspari, and GUESS WHAT THE FUCK I LEARNED.
IF YOU COULDN'T TELL BY HER LAST NAME ALREADY, SHE WAS FUCKING ITALIAN.
It was a BIG part of her identity. Now I want to choose my words carefully here: I'm not saying that all characters MUST be portrayed by actors who are 100% EXACTLY LIKE THEM. I think ultimately the ~best~ actor for the role should get the part. And in this day and age, at least as far as caucasians are concerned, we are all like 2% ethnically of some other white country, so for example, having Meryl play a Dutch woman in "Out of Africa" even though she isn't ACTUALLY Dutch doesn't seem problematic to me.
BUT WHEN YOUR CHARACTER IS 100% ITALIAN, AND IT IS AN ENORMOUS PART OF THEIR CULTURAL IDENTITY, MAYBE DON'T CAST MERYL STREEP??
Her character in "Bridges" is supposed to be an Italian IMMIGRANT. Roberta Guaspari was a FIRST GENERATION Italian woman. To be sure, it's not as heinous a crime as casting Emma Stone or Scarlett Johansson as Asian women, but surely it's STILL A LITTLE PROBLE-FUCKING-MATIC. And who knows, maybe the real Roberta was just stoked to have The Meryl Streep portraying her in a movie, but personally, I think it's a goddamn shame that they could't even be BOTHERED to find an actual Italian-American actress to portray her. I mean fuck, you know who would've been fucking BADASS as Roberta?? EDIE FUCKING FALCO, THAT'S WHO. Now there is a passionate, intense, Italian Fucking American actress who was totally the right age and has an INSANE amount of talent and range. She would've been fucking PERFECT.
HOW IT SHOULD'VE FUCKING GONE DOWN:
Addendum: I did some more research, and apparently, Wes Craven actually originally cast MADONNA as Roberta, but she left production after a few months citing "artistic differences" with Craven, even though she had already spent like 6 months learning how to play the violin. DUH! MADONNA!! SHE WOULD'VE ALSO BEEN A GREAT CHOICE!!
...But this isn't "HOW IT SHOULD'VE BEEN MADNESS" or "ITALIAN ACTRESS MADNESS," it is, for better or for worse, #MerylMadness.
It goes without saying that "Music of the Heart" is not Meryl at her finest. When I was in ~theatre school~ we used to talk about "essence" a lot - for you uncultured rubes, that's basically just fancy talk for "stereotypes." There are always about 5 or so types of roles any one actor can play: romantic ingenue, mother, villain, mentor, slut, etc. Of course these are subject to change over time, but there are some elements within these stereotypes that are just part of a person's essence, and one we discussed a lot was STATUS. Everyone, actor or not, has a certain presence that dictates status, and it has nothing to do with age, race, gender, or even talent. An excellent example would be Joaquin Phoenix and Russell Crowe in "Gladiator." Even when Russell is a literal prisoner being beaten and chased by wild animals for entertainment, he just has a certain fucking STATUS about him: High Status. He DEMANDS respect, just by his face and his... aura, if you will. Then there's Joaquin Phoenix - a man who I personally consider one of the finest actors alive, and certainly a more interesting and complex craftsman than Crowe - and he is, by nature, an actor who just gives off Low Status. That's why he was cast as the insecure emperor, and what made him so phenomenal as Johnny Cash, and as an anti-social recluse in "Her." There's just something about his presence that says, "I don't truly believe I'm good enough," or perhaps a more philosophical take on it: "No one believes in my power."
Meryl is, without a doubt, a woman of The Highest Fucking Status. She just has an air about her that demands a kind of respect and, dare I say, worship. And this isn't necessarily related to the character's social status! For example, in "Bridges," even though her character is barefoot and sweeping the porch in the middle of a sweaty farm in Iowa, she still has High Status: she's an Italian immigrant, aware of her sexual allure and prowess. She comes from this magical, foreign land and feels more educated, cultured, and interesting than the people around her, including her husband. That's part of her connection to Clint Eastwood: he fucking sees her magic (and part of why it's so fucking problematic to have this role played by Meryl WASP Streep with an Italian accent). But the way Roberta was written (and I believe the way she was in real life), she was - and I'm sure Roger Fucking Ebert would agree - Low Status. That's not to mean she was uncultured or uneducated, she obviously Knew Her Shit and was enormously talented and driven and passionate. But she was a single mom who had insecurities and didn't really believe that anyone believed in her. "No one believes my power." Even though SHE believed in it, she didn't believe anyone else did... Roberta, that is, not Meryl. Because that's the thing: I think Meryl is, inherently, incapable of playing a character who doubts that anyone else Believes In Her Power. It's in her Status. It can't be changed. That's why good casting is so important. AND WHY MOTHERFUCKING DIVERSITY IS A GODDAMNED NECESSITY JESUS CHRIST THERE ARE SO MANY ITALIAN ACTRESSES OUT THERE WTF WERE THEY THINKING.
So, without ANY FURTHER FUCKING ADO, the winner of Bracket #13 is:
"BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY"