Wednesday, May 11, 2005
Click on the title of this entry for a worthwhile think piece on Meryl Streep in The Independent by Elisabeth Vincentelli. It's a practical analysis of Streep and her place in show business, and how the business has shunned her methods while celebrating her status. At one point, Vincentelli says that Streep has a "serious lack of humor." Preposterous. Death Becomes Her is a gas, as are her moments in Adaptation, and look at any awards show where Streep is presenting -- her comic timing and ease with improv are effortless. Other than that, though, the article is on the money.
Here are the best excerpts:
'Still, an idea has developed over the years -- and it has been assisted by such judges as Pauline Kael and Katharine Hepburn -- that her brilliance is intellectual, theoretical, or mechanical. It is sometimes said that she is so good an actress, or a pretender, as to be out of the common range of feeling. I think that's nonsense, and doubly unfair in that it amounts to an actress being criticised or envied because of her astonishing ability. But it is a fascinating issue, and one that leads to a pernicious fallacy that has hovered over American acting ever since the foundation of the Actors' Studio -- that "sincerity" is more important than pretending in acting.'
'[Streep] takes the attitude: I want you to believe every time that you are seeing a new person -- it is my job to be empty until a character fills me up.'
On the difference between Method actors and Streep: 'In On the Waterfront we are always watching Brando (made up to seem damaged); in Sophie's Choice we are riveted by this pale, delicate, Polish woman and the inner damage done to her.
'Furthermore, if you were to suggest to Meryl Streep that the "pain" of being an actor might be so great as to prevent her working, I think Streep would tell you to brush your teeth and get on with it. She is eminently professional, and she works to the assumption that if she is a cellist playing Bach, then Bach was the genius and she is the performer and the enabler.'
'Too many actors have fallen into the thinking that the movies are about them.'
'And nothing has done more damage to movies in the last 20 years than the power of actors to shift their characters so that they become guaranteed "likeable."'