June 22, 1949– Mary Louise Streep is probably the greatest actor since the invention of film.
“Instant gratification takes too long.”
I recently caught The Devil Wears Prada (2006) again while channel surfing. The film certainly still stands up. Meryl Streep’s Miranda Priestly may be her greatest achievement in her long career so far.
She is not gay, of course, & she is neither needy nor tragic, or outrageous in her private life. But I feel that Streep has the making of a true Gay Icon. She turns an astonishing 66 years old today & she has never been bigger at the box-office.
Streep has received 19 Academy Award nominations (winning 3) & 29 Golden Globe nominations (winning 7), more than any other actor in film history. Her work has also earned her 2 Emmy Awards, 2 Screen Actors Guild Awards, a Cannes Film Festival award, 5 New York Film Critics Circle Awards, 5 Grammy Award nominations, 14 nomination & 2 BAFTA awards, & a couple of Tony Award nominations. In fact, I don’t consider it an awards season without Streep, beginning in 1979, when she was nominated for a Best Supporting Actress for The Deer Hunter, & winning in that category the next year for Kramer vs. Kramer. I think it says something for her sense of craft & sense of adventure that a star of her caliber will take on supporting roles. Streep was nominated in the supporting category 2 more times, for Adaptation (2002) & last year for Into The Woods. Those 4 supporting nods are whipped cream & cherry on top of the 15 Oscar nominations for Best Actress.
Streep moves easily between large & small films, between comic, musical & dramatic roles. Sine she turned 50 years old, ancient for a female film actor, she has showed her age gracefully, grandly & seductively.
A consummate craftsman, Streep is also, undeniably, a genuine film star. This is my favorite part of her story because it happened so late on her career. An admired actress for 3o years, she became a surprising box-office draw with The Devil Wears Prada, Mamma Mia! ( 2008, Streep’s largest grossing flick to date), Julie & Julia (2009) & It’s Complicated (2009). In the 21st century Streep has become the sort of actor whose name can open a film. Esteemed since her first films in the 1970s, she is now one of the most beloved movie stars.
I was initially reluctant to give her that love. At the start of her career, I thought her performances were all about technique & lacked heart. Sophie’s Choice (1982), Silkwood (1983) & A Cry In The Dark (1988) & the other stuff from that period seemed to be all about the accents & the wigs, nuanced gestures, high craftsmanship. It was if her audiences were asked to stand on awe of her remarkable range & her ever changing fully committed, controlled, calculated character choices & hairstyles.
But, then along came She-Devil (1989), Postcards From The Edge (1990) & Death Becomes Her (1992) & suddenly Streep seemed to tone down the technique & her performances were less intimidating & had gained a lightness. She seemed to be having fun with her characters without being less ambitious, working in unapologetically commercial projects for the entertainment of adults.
It is not that Streep gave up on her jaw-dropping acting shops or challenging accents & hairstyles. One of my favorites of her varied roles is the bored, Italian war-bride farmer’s wife in the underrated Bridges Of Madison County (1995). I still like her to break my heart, but Streep shines when she is playful & impish. Streep’s formidable timing & technique are well served in comedies & musicals. I like that she seems to be enjoying herself. She is light as air as the spacey folk singer in A Prairie Home Companion (2006), a romantically confused California bakery owner in It’s Complicated (2009), or as the lady fox married to George Clooney in Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009).
I first time I experienced Streep was not on film, but on stage in The Taming Of The Shrew opposite Raul Julia at The Public Theatre in 1975. Her work & her beauty then felt inspired, heartfelt & even transcendent. Yet, I am such a fan of this current period, now in her authentic prime. Real movie stars belong to everyone & that is what has happened to Streep. With nothing left to prove, she has become easy to love.
I am looking forward to seeing Streep do her magic act as the famously dreadful opera singer in Florence Foster Jenkins now filming for director Stephen Frears.