Imagine the skill: look someone up and down and say, ‘That’s all’. Imagine the result: a very engrossed me - sitting as audience in a theatre - so embarrassed by that withering look, getting up to leave, spilling popcorn over people around me, their angry exclamations jolting me into realising that Meryl Streep was cutting Anne Hathaway down to size and not me, That this was a movie and not a statement about my appalling fashion sense then. Miranda Priestly in the book
‘The Devil Wears Prada’ is like any other ‘boss’. VIDEO
It took Meryl Streep to purse her lips and look over her reading glasses and give life to the character. Hard to believe that it is the same actor who rooted you to your seat with her performance as a survivor of a concentration camp in
Sophie’s Choice. VIDEO
‘Don’t make me choose’ she cries out, when she’s made to choose which of her two children should survive when she’s about to be incarcerated in the concentration camp. You think it’s her screaming when the little girl is taken away, but no it’s not and you sit there stunned, grateful for the darkness between you and the others who are watching the movie with you. You don’t want to share the scream you have stifled yourself, the horror of Sophie saying, ‘Take my little girl.’
If that doesn’t show you the range of her skills then perhaps you will remember her as a mother/wife in a bitter separation from Dustin Hoffman, who is said to have been so immersed in the film that he not only broke a wine glass in the scene unexpectedly, but also slapped her so hard that his hand was imprinted on Meryl Streep’s cheek in
Kramer Vs. Kramer. You have to admit that the script is taut and you swing from wanting Dustin Hoffman to win to hoping the director will make Meryl Streep win the argument in their divorce.
It was weird to see Meryl Streep transformed into a woman being tried for the disappearance of her baby way down South in Australia. You cannot but hate her. She just looks guilty. You want her to be guilty. And yet,
A Cry In The Dark brought Lindy Chamberlain’s trauma of being pursued relentlessly by the media, and her resolute strength in trying to prove herself to be innocent is simply magnificent. In fact, the portrayal is so good, the Australian Police reopened the case after the film received critical acclaim. VIDEO
But she’s not just known for the traumatic roles she has played. More than once she has played the housewife in a small town to win an Academy award for best acting. Although
The Bridges Of Madison County is the most obvious choice for Streep’s portrayal of a feisty Iowa housewife who has a magical chemistry with Clint Eastwood, she is fabulous in… Wait, you know you will want to buy flowers for that special someone because she is as delightful as Ms. Streep VIDEO
I was saying, she has played the housewife in
Hope Springs with Tommy Lee Jones and that film still remains a masterclass in acting. As a crotchety husband and a dissatisfied wife who want to bring back the magic they once shared the two are simply fabulous. And Streep’s efforts to spice up their everyday, ordinary life is delightful. What we as audience discover that life can be serious as well as fun... VIDEO
She also plays an actress who is forced to live with her seemingly crazy and manipulative mother because she has been abusing her own body with drugs… Both Shirly MacLaine and Meryl Streep are magnificent together in
Postcards From The Edge. And when Dennis Quaid grins at her the way he does, you’re sitting in the audience grinning back when she shoots at him... VIDEO
It’s Mike Nichols in the director’s seat and you know why all these actors do such a brilliant job too… But if you’ve ever been enamoured by something a little different, then you will seek out the film
Adaptation which was released in 2002, directed by Spike Jonez. This film keeps you wondering what screenwriters today could do with a writer’s block, as you wonder what on Earth is going on between a writer and his twin (the first time I watched it, I wondered if the twin was a made up one, an imaginary friend, an alter ego) and the novelist and her motivation. If Nicholas Cage in a fatsuit can perform this brilliantly, imagine how awesome Meryl Streep is! VIDEO
If you’ve ever taken a class for something you’ve always longed to do and hope that you will turn out to be so brilliant, you would give up that nine to five job, then you will understand Charlie and Donald Kaufman’s desperation of selling that script. Once again, Meryl Streep spins her magic…
It’s really hard to choose a role where Meryl Streep is brilliant and in which role she is magnificent. Meryl as a nun who suspects abuse from the priest in
Doubt, Meryl as a calm in the storm during the Watergate scandal in The Post, Meryl as the mother who does not know which of her three lovers should give away the daughter in marriage in Mamma Mia!, Meryl as the celebrity chef Julia Childs in Julie & Julia, Meryl as The Iron Lady, Meryl as the whistleblower in the nuclear power plant scandal in Silkwood, Meryl as mother to Julia Roberts in August: Osage County, Meryl as mother in a perilous journey in The River Wild, Meryl as one of the three strong women who puts others lives ahead of their own in The Hours, Meryl in Ironweed, Marvin’s Room, Defending Your Life, Meryl as scary yet gentle woman in The Still Of The Night.. Meryl, Meryl, Meryl… She’s even fun is silly movies like Ricki And The Flash where she plays an ageing rocker mom, in She Devil where she plays the title role and even a daft It’s Complicated.
But wait… why have I kept Meryl Streep’s best performances unmentioned? I was saving them for the last, of course!
With Jeremy Irons making every woman in the audience weak in the knees, but he’s rightly enamoured by Meryl Streep, making us all Streepers. At one point I knew that the glasses she wears in The Devil Wears Prada are the same glasses she uses in Mamma Mia. At some point trivia about her friendship and resemblance to Glenn Close was on the tip of my tongue. At one point I wanted to visit Africa only if I could dress like Meryl Streep in
Out Of Africa, because you hope you will meet someone like Robert Redford there… VIDEO
She celebrates her birthday today, as we watch her movies on Netflix again. And but naturally, the song with the most delectable chemistry between two people comes to mind. It rightfully says, ‘Hooked on the memory of you and I…’
Manisha Lakhe is a poet, film critic, traveller, founder of Caferati — an online writer’s forum, hosts Mumbai’s oldest open mic, and teaches advertising, films and communication.