Truth be told, Florence Foster Jenkins was a wildly underrated performance. Like, I'm literally the only person I know who's even seen the movie, and Meryl did receive her TWENTIETH OSCAR NOMINATION for it. Frankly, before #MerylMadness began, I thought that some of her nominations - Devil Wears Prada, for example - were just lazy on behalf of the Academy. Like there were literally NO other impressive performances that year to choose from?
Then I watched them. Her performances in Julie & Julia and Into the Woods certainly did not deserve to be nominated. But her work in Devil Wears Prada and Florence Foster Jenkins totally did.
Her performance in Florence is legitimately heartbreaking. She's the Poor Little Rich Girl, a miraculous but untouchable survivor of Syphilis, a trust-fund baby, with little else to live for in life but her passionate love of music - the closest she'll ever get to true romance - and God has cursed her with the world's most awful singing voice. The tragedy is all the more heightened by the fact that everyone in her life is greedy for her disposable wealth, and will lavish her with praise and support so long as she keeps paying them.
The entire time you're sitting there wondering if she's really that deluded, or if deep down she knows she can't sing but doesn't care, because everyone's pretending she can. It's like an exaggerated, twisted, and arguably darker take on The Emperor's New Clothes, except the Emperor is a sad old woman dying of Syphilis and her "clothes" are the one thing in life that bring her joy: to sing, to sing at the top of your lungs, not because of who might be listening but because of how it makes her feel.
A moment of appreciation for Florence:
BRIDGES OF MADISON COUNTY
1) CHARACTER: 4/5
2) RANGE: 8/10
3) DEPTH: 12/15
4) CHUTZPAH: 12/20
ONE TRUE THING
1) CHARACTER: 3/5
2) RANGE: 7/10
3) DEPTH: 10/15
4) CHUTZPAH: 12/20
1) CHARACTER: Truly one of the more complex characters Meryl's ever had to play, and I understand completely why she was cast. Who the fuck else could've pulled that off? A middle-aged author dutifully looking for her next muse, accidentally stumbling into a world of indigenous mystery, bloodthirsty crime, toothless drug addicts and cosmic poetry; it is all seemingly beneath her, but turns out to expose exactly who the fuck she is. Go ahead and name another actor who could do that. I'll wait. 5/5
2) DEPTH: I'm waiting to use the clip for a later bracket when I'll really need the big guns, but there is a fucking monologue Meryl gives late in this movie - for those of you familiar, the "I want to be a baby again" speech - and a wail that is... yep, I'm gonna fucking say it: BETTER THAN SOPHIE'S CHOICE. 10/10
3) RANGE: Extraordinary disappointment. Deep self-loathing. Existential crises. Falling out of love. Falling in love. Getting high for the first time. Watching your life fall apart. It is phenomenal range done with fucking outrageous simplicity and subtlety. Now that I'm thinking about it, this is what I was missing in Postcards from the Edge. Maybe it took a later Meryl to really embody all that. 15/15
4) CHUTZPAH: Again, only fucking Meryl could pull off a performance where her central fight is INSIDE HER OWN BRAIN and not make it pedantic or nauseating or boring. This is a woman self-destructing in the name of FEELING ALIVE and although it is wildly selfish, you totally fucking get it. 20/20
TOTAL POINTS: DAMN STRAIGHT IT'S A FUCKING FLAWLESS PERFORMANCE. 50 POINTS.
DEVIL WEARS PRADA
1) CHARACTER: STONE. COLD. BITCH. She's like the female equivalent of Dr. House: she's always fucking right, and even when she's an asshole, you're kind of rooting for her? To see a WOMAN play that kind of role and pull it off is A RARE GODDAMN TREAT. 5/5
2) DEPTH: I mean... I will gush about her range below, but yeah, there's not a lot of depth here. There are glimpses, but it's not the same. And that's not fault of Meryl's, it's the fault of the writer for choosing to make this movie about Bland Hathaway instead of Meryl Goddess Streep. 5/10
3) RANGE: Subtle villainy is arguably the best kind. Meryl is manipulative, cold, vindictive, ruthless (!), but best of all, she has moments these little moments of SURPRISE: when Bland Hathaway gets that Harry Potter manuscript, when Bland Hathaway interrupts her marital dispute, when Bland Hathaway jumps out of the basically moving vehicle. These little moments where we see something different from Meryl's otherwise air tight villainy is what range is all about. ...But even still, that's really just giving us range from Cold Bitch to Vulnerable Bitch, with a smattering of Pleasantly Surprised Bitch. That's only three Bitches. 10/15
4) CHUTZPAH: This is a harder category to judge because Miranda Priestly isn't really fighting for anything - again, this is the fault of the writer for making it Bland's story, not Meryl's. Frankly, she's a poorly written character that Meryl managed to infuse with the goddamn Breath and Life of GOD HERSELF to make into such an iconic role. But what is she fighting for? She's not fighting to make Bland a better employee. She's not fighting to be understood. Like plot-wise, she is technically fighting to keep her job, but that's not really part of her ~character~. She's kind of like the anti-joker. Like she literally just does not care what anyone else does as long as it doesn't get in her way. She just wants to watch the world burn... on the runway, in heels. 2/5
TOTAL POINTS: 22
DEATH BECOMES HER
1) CHARACTER: Extremely well established, a decadently villainous and self-indulgent bitch that Meryl clearly takes So Much Pleasure in showing us. 5/5
2) RANGE: Meryl starts as a sultry, vulnerable temptress in desperate need of Diehard With Hair, transforms into Exhausted & Anxious Clock-is-Ticking Bitch, then comes fully into her own as Immortal And Fucking Loving It Mega-Bitch. 10/10
3) DEPTH: There's another element of this category I feel needs to be discussed: commitment. Remember Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge, when she's flopping all over the floor of the Elephant Room miming orgasms to seduce Obi-Wan-MacGregor? Or Meg Ryan in the famous When Harry Met Sally orgasm scene? Or Rosario Freaking Dawson in literally any movie where she has to pretend to be madly in love with some overweight, overage, under-talented male co-star? CO-FUCKING-MMITMENT. Meryl knocks this one OUT OF THE PARK. Please note the tongue waggle at 1:15 on the "You Pushed Me Down The Stairs" clip below. It is nothing short of iconic. 15/15
4) CHUTZPAH: She fights to get the man. She fights to get the boyfriend. She fights to get the face lift. She fights to get the Satan-sponsored, soul-selling, total body makeover. She fights to get Goldie out of the picture. She fights to get Diehard With Hair back on her side as her eternal body mechanic. 20/20
TOTAL: 50 POINTS
POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE
1) CHARACTER: Meryl takes all the spoiled brattiness and Butch #BDE Energy from Silkwood but replaces the low class accent with upper class guilt. It's stripped down in comparison to a lot of her other roles, and I love it. 5/5
2) RANGE: Meryl plays a fantastic drug-fueled Hot Mess, an endearingly sympathetic Struggling To Be Sober Mess, a painfully familiar My Mom Made Me A Hot Mess, a delightful Fuck You Dennis Quaid For Making Me Messier Mess, and that final ADR scene with Royal Tenenbaum... UGH, right in the feels. 10/10
3) DEPTH: I really hate myself for what I'm about to do here, I just need you to know that. Generally speaking, I would much rather watch an actor (even Meryl) just ~be~ rather than put on all these extra airs and accents and prosthetics. I loved getting to just watch Meryl BE in Postcards, without any of her usual distractions, or the added element of fantasy or sci-fi that we see in Death. However... I feel like she's holding back here. Not that she needed to be louder or bigger or meaner, but she needed to... well, go deeper. There's a stubbornness and resistance in her character, and I sort of feel like she let that get in the way of the moments when we really needed to see her feel shame or rejection, and I do not think the fault is her's (or Carrie Fisher's), but the simple fact that the movie was trying to remain on the lighter end of an R rating... share the spotlight with so many other stars. 12/15
4) CHUTZPAH: Meryl fights with her director. She fights with her doctors. She fights with her sobriety, her boyfriend, her mom, her director again, and none of it even holds a candle to how much she's fighting to self-destruct. As a long time lover of Carrie Fisher and her story, I hurt through every second of this movie, and wished there was a way I could've fixed her. Also, I just found out that Meryl Streep sang at Carrie Fisher's memorial service, so, brb crying for fucking ever. 20/20
TOTAL: 47 POINTS
Streep & Barr Grapple in "She-Devil"
by Jeannie Park
''This movie is about contrasts,'' says the director Susan Seidelman, and indeed it's hard to imagine a more contrasting pair of stars. One is tall and sleek; the other is, well, fat. One is refined; the other, outrageous. One trained at Yale; the other, in biker bars. One does accents; the other, wisecracks. One is Streep, the other is Barr.
Yes, Meryl Streep and Roseanne Barr - the queen of the movies and the empress of prime time - are together, improbably, in Ms. Seidelman's new film ''She-Devil,'' shot this summer in New York and scheduled to open in December. In the film, based on the 1983 Fay Weldon novel ''The Life and Loves of a She-Devil,'' Miss Barr plays the dumpy - and dumped on - housewife Ruth, whose husband, Bob, deserts her for the glamorous romance novelist Mary, played by Ms. Streep. To avenge this injustice, Ruth transforms herself into a ''she devil,'' who ruins the lovers and in the process discovers her self-worth.
On a day off from filming, in the SoHo loft she shares with the movie's producer Jonathan Brett, Ms. Seidelman discusses how the unusual - and enviable - cast (which includes Ed Begley Jr. as the philandering Bob, Sylvia Miles as Mary's troublesome mother and Linda Hunt as Ruth's friend) came about.
''Meryl is such a brilliant actress, she could have played Ruth,'' says Ms. Seidelman, but instead she signed on to play Mary. ''Then,'' says the director, ''we needed someone who was larger than your usual heroine - in some way larger than life. Roseanne's name kept popping up.'' Miss Barr, the star of ABC's phenomenally successful series ''Roseanne,'' had never acted in a film, but Ms. Seidelman decided she would be right.
Ms. Seidelman has shown a penchant for unorthodox casting, picking the then relatively unknown Madonna for a part in ''Desperately Seeking Susan'' (1985) and the British actress Emily Lloyd for the part of a Brooklyn teen-ager in ''Cookie,'' which opened Wednesday.
In the case of Madonna, at least, the director's instincts paid off in an unanticipated shower of publicity. Similarly, with the intriguing combination of Ms. Streep and Miss Barr, two of Hollywood's brightest lights, the production was hounded by fans begging for autographs, paparazzi stalking the locations and reporters clamoring to visit the set. Even Mr. Begley says of the two actresses, ''I would work as the [ food ] services person, do the slate, be the boom man. Anything, to work with them.'' What makes the casting even more unusual is the fact that Miss Barr has the serious role, while Ms. Streep, as the ultra-feminine, pretentious writer Mary, has the more comedic part. ''That's what I like about it,'' Ms. Seidelman says enthusiastically. ''I like casting that I haven't seen before. I love working with Meryl in the kind of movie that she doesn't normally do.''
During a lunch break on location in downtown New York, Ms. Streep says she was interested in the part of Mary because ''she's a real glamour puss. And I haven't played a lot of those. It's a real stretch.'' Draped in silk and pearls, her long blond hair curled around her shoulders, Ms. Streep looks the part. ''Mary is everybody's image of a movie star,'' the actress says. ''She's interviewed by 'Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous' and by People magazine. These are the things I should be doing,'' she says wryly, slamming the table for emphasis.
She says she was drawn to the script partly because of ''the issues it deals with. The issues of the woman who's dumped because she's fat and the woman who's picked up because of the way she looks.'' Society's preoccupation with appearances is more pronounced now ''than 10 years ago,'' she says. ''Look at who's in Congress, who's running the studios. I see more people having plastic surgery. It's too bad.'' Her last film, ''A Cry in the Dark,'' in which she portrayed a woman wrongly accused of murdering her baby, ''was sort of about that,'' says Ms. Streep. ''It was about the truth packaged in an unappealing, unattractive wrapper. A triumph of form over substance.''
Working on this comedy - her first since ''Heartburn'' in 1986 - ''has been just a riot,'' she says. ''I just frankly wanted to do a film that didn't cost me 75 pounds of emotional weight.'' Of Miss Barr, with whom she actually shares only a handful of scenes, Ms. Streep says, ''She's smart and sassy.''
The admiration is mutual. ''Meryl is hysterical,'' Miss Barr says. ''She's a great comedienne.'' Miss Barr adds that she has tried to pick up some tips from the eight-time Oscar nominee. ''I asked her some well-chosen questions, although if I had my way, I'd be all over her 24 hours a day, asking, 'What about this? what about that?' "
Miss Barr's conversation is punctuated with bouts of singing, hooting, uncontrollable laughter and obscene jokes. Since her earliest stand-up routines, one of her pet topics has been the shortcomings of men, especially men like Ruth's husband, Bob. ''Our job,'' she says of women, ''is to raise the human race. Men have gotta catch up to us. And they've got about a million years to go.'' She took the role in ''She-Devil,'' she says, ''because it was a real positive woman's part, not a female impersonator or a drag queen. Ruth is Everywoman.'' Although she is irrepressibly funny, she says it is ''a fabulous relief'' not to play a comic role in the film, ''because I've known for a long time that I had more in me than that.''
Doing ''She-Devil,'' she says, is just one step in her ambitious plans. ''I want to make a series of films. I want to write them, I want to direct them and I want to star in them, too. They'll be about me in one way or another. I want to be Woody Allen.''
Later, she has a second thought. ''I want to be the girl Indiana Jones. I would love to do an adventure movie, where I was saving the world.'' Would she have a gimmick, like Indy's whip or hat? ''I think my entire being is gimmick enough.'' she says with a cackle, adding, ''It might be cool if I used a lot of kitchen tools to fight off the enemy.''
Miss Barr recently wrote her autobiography, ''Roseanne: My Life as a Woman,'' to be published by Harper & Row in October. And, of course, there is her television show, which was No. 1 at the end of last season. ''I'll do the show till people don't like it anymore,'' Miss Barr says emphatically. ''Or until we have to take a family trip to Hawaii or go to Russia,'' she says, referring to plot devices used by other sitcoms. ''Or when we have to start having guest stars. When Sammy Davis Jr. shows up, then I'll quit.''
On the rose-colored set of the Vesta Rose Employment Agency, created by the character Ruth - under the alias of Vesta Rose - in order to infiltrate Bob's business, Miss Barr has forsaken her bowling shirt and jeans for a pink suit and heels, and her tousled hair has been teased into a neat flip. While Ruth sits at her desk, plotting her husband's downfall, her cheerful assistants, dressed in rose-patterned blouses, help a dozen women of all ages and ethnicities fill out pink employment forms.
A highly progressive outfit, the Vesta Rose Agency provides day care in a toy-filled nursery, where the director, clad as usual in basic downtown black, can be found between shots tossing a beach ball with the producer, Mr. Brett. The job agency is one of the elements Ms. Seidelman liked most about Fay Weldon's novel when she happened to pick it up in a bookstore one day. ''Ruth does really nasty things, but in the wake of all the negative things, she does all these really wonderful things. She helps thousands of unemployed women. That's kind of the beauty and the irony of it.''
Although the film is faithful to the first half of the book, Ms. Seidelman says that the screenwriters Mark Burns and Barry Strugatz, who wrote ''Married to the Mob,'' have changed Ms. Weldon's controversial ending, in which Ruth literally turns into Mary and takes on her nemesis' life style. ''I wasn't sure what the ending meant, because she becomes the other,'' says the director. The message in the film will be clearer. ''It sounds corny, but it's about how the Ruths out there don't have to be powerless.''
Looking back on her films, Ms. Seidelman says, ''There is definitely a thread that runs through all the protagonists. Women who feel a little dissatisfied, outsiderlike, looking to change their lives in some way. Certainly that was true of the character in 'Smithereens,' and of Roberta in 'Desperately Seeking Susan.' Frankie Stone in 'Making Mr. Right' looked a lot more together than she really was. And 'Cookie' is this girl who's rebellious and trying to break out on her own. And now there's Ruth, the dumped housewife who changes her life.''
This thread reflects the director's perceptions of herself. ''I feel like an underdog. I have an affinity for losers. I never felt part of the mainstream. When I got out of film school, I didn't relate to the film industry because of the kinds of films I wanted to make. But now I am part of the film industry,'' she says with a shrug, indicating she is not entirely comfortable with this idea. ''Still, I'm sort of riding that line between independent and mainstream.''
Ms. Seidelman hesitates to discuss what her film says about men, because ''I've already gotten crucified for 'Making Mr. Right.' People said that it's really anti-male, that I was saying the only good man was one that women could create themselves, or a robot or a dildo. But I'm in no way anti-male.
''The great thing about 'She-Devil,' '' she says, ''is that it's not a female thing. Everyone dreams revenge plots. Whether it's a boyfriend who dumped you, a boss who fired you. Or,'' - her eyes light with mischief - ''a critic who hated your movie.''