Why I don’t want Meryl Streep to win the Oscar
To make my cinematic allegiance very clear, let me say at the outset that I think Meryl Streep is one of the finest and most versatile actresses Hollywood has seen. She is an inspiration to several actresses of following generations and few have been able to match her prowess in variety and perfection.
That said, I will add, that this fine actress does not deserve an Oscar this year for her performance as British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
To begin with, The Iron Lady was a terrible film. It is poorly written and doesn’t understand the politics of the biopic as a genre. Thatcher spent an unprecedented three terms in office that are an essential feature of her biography but the film is unable to portray this duration, and in fact doesn’t even try to capture her influence on an entire era of British politics. It is little more than a clumsy coming together of some highlights of her career. The forced inclusion of Thatcher’s “emotional responses” to some of these situations is plain embarrassing.
So it can fairly be argued that Streep was caught in a bad script that didn’t allow her any room to really perform. But that doesn’t take away from Streep’s own performance technique, which is little more than mimicry. To be fair, as a number of people have added, she is remarkably like Thatcher, in her accent, in her look and everything. The question really is, is that enough? Meryl Streep established her ability to adopt accents with an uncanny degree of perfection very early in her career. A case in point is her first Oscar as Best Actress for Sophie’s Choice. While her Polish accent was the highlight of that film, it didn’t undermine her moving attempt to get under the skin of that incredibly slippery character. What remains in our mind then is not just an American actress, playing a Polish woman trying to speak English, but rather a character whose history and her contradictions are articulated through her body.
To be utterly crude, one can say, that there was an attempt to layer that character and several others that Streep performed subsequently, but is sadly missing from her two latest performances, as Julia Childs in Julie and Julia and now as Thatcher in The Iron Lady. They have been lazy responses of a person who knows she can get away with what comes quite easily to her, which at its best is an impersonation and its worst is parody. Given that that is definitely not the tone of this film, it is an unsuccessful outing. Personally, I think her last outstanding performance was as the soft-spoken menace in The Devil Wears Prada.
It has become something of a joke to nominate Streep, each time she so much as breathes on screen, in fact I think it is insulting, because clearly it is not skill, but about hype. It’s almost as if the Academy is too scared to dare to not nominate her.