If this were a competition on Best Meryl Movies, this would be a no-brainer. But it isn't. It's about performance. And however silly and dumb Devil Wears Prada may have been as a film, Meryl's performance in it was no fucking joke.
In this five minute clip of Adaptation alone (below), Meryl gives us more range and depth than many of her films combined. AND IT'S MY FAVORITE KIND: Bare Meryl. Stripped down. No character shit, no accents, no fantasy or sci-fi. There's a time and place for all those - they're not inherently wrong, nor do they necessarily imply a less talented performance (Death Becomes Her is in the Great Eight, I obviously fucking love the surreal).
But let's put it this way: when a director auditions an actor for a role, the actor doesn't have the luxury of the costumes, make up, music, set, or special affects. It's just them, alone on a bare stage, or sitting in front of a camera before a bare wall - because to truly weigh the required talent of an actor for a particular role, that is all you need: just them and their chutzpah.
To be fair, Meryl could've pulled Miranda Priestly out of her ass without the Witch Mommy haircut or the Big Dick Energy Desk or even the presence of Eternally Befuddled Anne What's Her Face. Her performance is deafening, and she never raises her voice. That is a skill that takes years of honing.
I referenced the "Cerulean Blue Monologue" in the original post, but here it is in it's entirety. It really starts going around 0:30.
DAMNNNNNNN that last little up-and-down look she gives Bland Hathaway literally gives me CHILLS.
I could go on a very long rant about how FASHION FUCKING MATTERS and it is not about the trivial, self-indulgent, toxic companies that have poisoned its name and significance in philosophy and culture, but you can just read this succinct and riveting article about Princess Diana's role in game-changing fashion instead.
We've got Ruthless Reasons to get through:
Sorry Miranda, but that's all. The next film in our Great Eight is:
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.''
But SHOCKINGLY, not everybody was as cool as me and went to ~theatre school~ (if you had, you could be a waitress with a blog right now! Haha!)
So to help you Uncultured Rubes, I have used them as the foundation for my simpler, distilled, and Way Cooler point-based system. And because I'm So Cool, let's give them a dope name.
1) CHARACTER: Without a doubt, this is Meryl's FINEST ACCENT WORK, and I am not the biggest fan of MWAA (Meryl With An Accent). But damn, she fucking NAILS the delicate nuance of someone who's mother tongue is an Eastern European language, and on TOP of that, she fucking learned German AND Polish too. Now that's the kind of Method Acting I can get behind. 5/5
2) DEPTH: Yeah. Fucking obviously. 10/10
3) RANGE: Here's where I might lose some of you. Frankly... Meryl does not have a lot of range here. I mean, think about it: She is achingly fucking sad in Auschwitz. She is achingly fucking sad when Kevin Kline is an asshole to her. She is achingly fucking sad when she's trying to pretend Kevin HASN'T been a huge asshole to her. And then she ACHINGLY FUCKING KILLS HERSELF. There's a lot of self-reflecting and (achingly) beautiful self-loathing, but ultimately?? Not a heck of a lot of range, folks. 6/15
4) CHUTZPAH: You should see where I'm going with this by now. What is Meryl fighting for? What does Meryl WANT? I know what Meryl does NOT want: She does NOT want to go to Auschwitz. She does NOT want her children to die. She does NOT want Kevin Kline to leave her alone, but she also does NOT want to be with someone who is actually nice to her. Truthfully, she does NOT really want to be alive anymore. I could almost give her depressing points for chutzpah if she at least made a goddamn intentional choice in the matter of her own death (à la The Red Shoes, fucking spectacular movie you should all watch), but it WASN'T EVEN HER IDEA! MERYL & KEVIN PULLED A ROMEO & JULIET WITH DRUGS HE STOLE FROM WORK! YOU SURVIVED FUCKING AUSCHWITZ AND YOU LET YOUR SHITTY BOYFRIEND TALK YOU INTO A SUICIDE PACT. LAME. 8/20
1) CHARACTER: Hell yeah. I am All About Scrappy Meryl. Her southern dialect was executed perfectly (duh), and her body language and movement were wildly different from anything we've seen before. She had similar #BigDickEnergy to her portrayal of Carrie Fisher in Postcards from the Edge, but with a totally new vibe: low class and unspoiled, but with the same amount of sass. Low class sass, if you will. 5/5
2) DEPTH: Everyone talks about "The Shower Scene" as the most harrowing part of the film, but what sticks in my memory is the moment right before: Meryl waves her hand past the detector and the alarm goes off, The Fear fills her eyes, and she gives a harrowing wail... gave me literal chills, especially since she'd already gone through it once and knew how awful it was - and knew it would be even worse the second time. 10/10
3) RANGE: We start with Princess Meryl, prancing around the lunch room demanding a bite from everyone's lunch. Then we see Anxious Meryl, visiting her estranged children a state away. We get Bitchy Meryl, starting fights with Aggressively American Kurt Russell, we get Nosy Meryl, asking questions at work She Isn't Supposed To, we get Activist Meryl, Dumped Meryl, Contaminated Meryl, Betrayed Meryl, Angry Meryl, Scared Meryl, and Vindictive Meryl. But most importantly... we have Scrappy Meryl. 12/15
4) CHUTZPAH: What we have here is the ultimate trifecta: 1) Meryl against the Man: Fighting to expose and take down a giant evil company who literally might kill MILLIONS of people. 2) Meryl against her lover/friends: Fighting to be taken seriously by those closest to her, who are annoyed by her activism, then threatened by it, then downright scared shitless for what the consequences might be. And 3) Meryl against HERSELF: There are several moments in her performance where you can tell Meryl is asking herself if this is really all worth it, if it's worth being hated and ostracized and LITERALLY CONTAMINATED WITH PLUTONIUM to do The Right Thing. And even though she loses the fight, she goddamn FIGHTS IT ANYWAY. 20/20
"Meryl marched into the hotel suite where Hoffman, Benton, and Jaffe sat side by side. She had read Corman’s novel and found Joanna to be “an ogre, a princess, an ass,” as she put it soon after to American Film. When Dustin asked her what she thought of the story, she told him in no uncertain terms. They had the character all wrong, she insisted. Her reasons for leaving Ted are too hazy. We should understand why she comes back for custody. When she gives up Billy in the final scene, it should be for the boy’s sake, not hers. Joanna isn’t a villain; she’s a reflection of a real struggle that women are going through across the country, and the audience should feel some sympathy for her. If they wanted Meryl, they’d need to do re-writes, she later told Ms. magazine.
The trio was taken aback, mostly because they hadn’t called her in for Joanna in the first place. They were thinking of her for the minor role of Phyllis, the one-night stand. Somehow she’d gotten the wrong message. Still, she seemed to understand the character instinctively. Maybe this was their Joanna after all?
That, at least, was Meryl’s version. The story the men told was completely different. “It was, for all intents and purposes, the worst meeting anybody ever had with anybody,” Benton recalled.
“She said a few things, not much. And she just listened. She was polite and nice, but it was—she was just barely there.”
When Meryl left the room, Stanley Jaffe was dumbfounded. “What is her name—Merle?” he said, thinking box office.
Benton turned to Dustin. Dustin turned to Benton. “That’s Joanna,” Dustin said. The reason was John Cazale. Dustin knew that Meryl had lost him only months earlier, and from what he saw, she was still shaken to the core. That’s what would fix the Joanna problem: an actress who could draw on a still-fresh pain, who was herself in the thick of emotional turmoil. It was Meryl’s weakness, not her strength, that convinced him."
"Dustin and Meryl took their positions on the other side of the apartment door. Then something happened that shocked not just Meryl but everyone on set. Right before their entrance, Dustin slapped her hard across the cheek, leaving a red mark.
Benton heard the slap and saw Meryl charge into the hallway. We’re dead, he thought. The picture’s dead. She’s going to bring us up with the Screen Actors Guild. Instead, Meryl went on and acted the scene. Clutching Joanna’s trench coat, she pleaded with Ted, “Don’t make me go in there!” As far as she was concerned, she could conjure Joanna’s distress without taking a smack to the face, but Dustin had taken extra measures. And he wasn’t done.
In her last tearful moments, Joanna tells Ted that she doesn’t love him anymore, and that she’s not taking Billy with her. The cameras were set up on Meryl in the elevator, with Dustin acting his part offscreen.
Improvising his lines, Dustin delivered a slap of a different sort: outside the elevator, he started taunting Meryl about John Cazale, jabbing her with remarks about his cancer and his death. “He was goading her and provoking her,” Fischoff recalled, “using stuff that he knew about her personal life and about John to get the response that he thought she should be giving in the performance.”
Meryl, Fischoff said, went “absolutely white.” She had done her work and thought through the part. And if Dustin wanted to use Method techniques like emotional recall, he should use them on himself. Not her.
They wrapped, and Meryl left the studio in a rage. Day two, and Kramer vs. Kramer was already turning into Streep vs. Hoffman."
"In the next take, Dustin smacked the wineglass and it shattered on the restaurant wall. Meryl jumped in her chair, authentically startled. “Next time you do that, I’d appreciate you letting me know,” she said. There were shards of glass in her hair. The camera caught the whole thing. [...]
“I never saw one moment of emotion leak out of her except in performance,” Benton said. She thought of the movie as work, not as a psychological minefield.
"According to Richard L. Rashke's book, The Killing of Karen Silkwood (2000), officials investigating Silkwood's death and Kerr-McGee's operations received death threats. One of the investigators disappeared under mysterious circumstances. One of the witnesses "committed suicide" shortly before she was to testify against the Kerr-McGee Corporation about the alleged happenings at the plant. Rashke wrote that the Silkwood family's legal team were followed, threatened with violence, and physically assaulted." Read more here.
Clint: You're not coming with me, are you.
Clint: I've never said this before in my life, and I believe I'll only ever say it once: this kind of certainty comes but once in a lifetime.
"Many white people in films based on the stories of POC are often subliminally depicted as godlike saviors, heroes who are rational and judicious to the core. They are usually deified men or women — glorified and righteous — like scripture out of a Holy Book. Look at Hillary Swank in Freedom Writers. The white savior somehow always ends up usurping the narrative. And in this centering of whiteness and white characters, the POC characters end up becoming props, which only perpetuates ideas of our otherness and unimportance, which then establishes a status quo of racism. Whiteness is again normalized, and POC are decentralized. This is particularly problematic because whiteness is not only favored in Hollywood but also in society at large; white privilege is ever-present and ubiquitous."
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