The Original BJ wrote:I watched The Post again, and while my general opinion remains the same, I am going to admit that I underrated Meryl Streep's work here. I understand now why so many have been genuinely enthused by what she's doing, because it's such a change of pace from so many of her recent roles. Over the past decade, she's played a lot of BIG characters, often in broad comedy roles (Florence Foster Jenkins, Into the Woods), but also in her more dramatic roles, where her characters were genuinely larger than life (August: Osage County, The Iron Lady). But here she plays a very normal woman, and this return to a more grounded characterization gives her a chance to imbue her key scenes (expressing her disappointment with McNamara, opening up emotionally with her daughter in the bedroom scene, giving the go-ahead to publish the papers in her flustered phone call) with quite a bit of detail and human nuance. It's the kind of work that one can easily undervalue simply because it's not too flashy, and I'm afraid I undervalued it my first time through with this film.
Looking back at Streep’s career, it can be divided into three phases, success wise. The first, 1977-1990, the shooting star phase, in which she accumulated 9 Oscar nominations per 14 years. 1991-2005 – the wandering around, “loosing focus” phase, 4 nods/15 years. 2006-2016 – the superstardom, greatest actor since the early Paleozoic era phase – 7 nods/11 years. Interestingly, both the first and the last can be defined by a kind of an über theme which suggests a varied yet unified artistic opus. No, not the accents - in the early stage it was about a complex, challenging take on womanhood, a subversive, post-feminist portrait of wifehood and motherhood. In the last, or rather current one, all these broad, larger than life, BIG characters as you call them, can be collectively looked at as a reflective look by a veteran, successful artist at the essence of her art – a cumulative dissertation on the nature of performing.
Some of the characters she portrayed in the last decade or so were actual performers – Julia Child, Ricki and Frances Foster Jenkins, but even more interesting are those other films in which she played women who are knowingly creating/fabricating a fully realized public persona in order to maintain their authoritative social place – The Devil Wears Prada, Doubt, The Iron Lady, August: Osage County, Into the Woods, even her cameo in Suffragette (and probably The Giver too, I haven’t seen it) – all the women she plays in these films are consummate performers. Miranda Priestley’s (a masterfully slick turn in an ok film) schtick is an obvious Act. Her Margaret Thatcher’s (a very good performance in a very bad film) success as a politician is tied closely with her mastering her posture, the way she is projecting her voice, her wardrobe, her makeup and hairstyle – her acting. Sister Aloysius (a very good performance in a mediocre film) is very self-consciously putting on a show to intimidate her underlings, as is Violet Weston (an interesting failed turn in a disastrous film). The Witch (efficient yet blah turn in a blah film) being monstrous is a spell induced mask – and like in every other film mentioned here, this mask must be taken off at one stage for the character’s true, often fragile, self to be revealed.
I haven’t seen The Post yet, but it will be interesting to see were, or rather if it fits into this pattern – from what I’ve heard and read here, it might be an interestingly fresh turn in Streep’s journey as an actress.