Where do you start to talk about such a career? Perhaps simply with a happy ending, one of the most beautiful in US cinema of the eighties: in Ulu Grosbard’s slightly sticky commuter romance “Falling in Love”.
Meryl Streep sees Robert De Niro in a bookstore, the same place where they first met on Christmas Eve: an embarrassed smile, a shy conversation, repressed passions, then they part ways again. They return to their spouses in the suburbia, but the film does have a heartbeat (literally!). In the New York Grand Central Station the lovers fall into each other’s arms, great emotional cinema: the picture freezes, plus an elegant cross-fade and, in a classicistic way, the words “The End”. Hollywood hasn’t made such films for a long time.
“Falling in Love” has not been completely forgotten. Streep (like De Niro) has made better films, including the Vietnam classic “The Deer Hunter”, the noble glamor “Out of Africa”, Spike Jonze’s “Adaptation” and the Abba musical “Mamma Mia!”. This Starkino variety looks a bit dusty today, but her pastel-skinned Molly is one of Streep’s most beautiful early roles, because you can watch how fine cracks emerge in the tense emotional corset that often constrained her playing. The emotional confusion was not a salient characteristic of the young Meryl Streep or her characters.
A slightly aristocratic aura
Especially in her middle career phase, she was always surrounded by an aristocratic aura. Streep strove for a controlled perfectionism that drove her directors, such as Sydney Pollack, but also the American great critic Pauline Kael to white heat. Brittle stars like Streep, who was awarded the Emmy for her first major role in the “Holocaust” miniseries, are primarily respected and adored by colleagues and fans.
She has only been dearly loved since her hilarious portrayal of Vogue boss Anna Wintour in “The Devil Wears Prada” and the former girl group singer in “Mamma Mia!”, The only blockbuster of her career so far – including the sequel. They showed a new side to Streep.
In the meantime she has even managed to give a politically questionable personality like Margaret Thatcher, whom she played in 2011 in “The Iron Lady”, a human face. Streep, one of the loudest left-wing voices in Hollywood, has also been criticized by women for the role of the conservative hardliner with the breakwater hairstyle. In 2016, she then sided with candidate Hillary Clinton in an openly misogynous presidential campaign.
Streep’s attitude towards feminism is more pragmatic than influenced by political programs. In the MeToo debate, she also did not look happy when she publicly said that Harvey Weinstein always treated her with respect. At the same time she plays Emmeline Pankhurst, the founder of the historic women’s movement, in “Suffragette” from 2015, and most recently in Steven Spielberg’s “The Publisher” Katharine Graham, the influential newspaper magnate of the “Washington Post”.
You can hardly imagine the cinema today without Meryl Streep. While other stars of the eighties like Michelle Pfeiffer are experiencing a kind of comeback – or like Kim Basinger have disappeared into oblivion – Meryl Streep, the last female Hollywood star to deserve this title, is still there. Edits with the president, just keeps making films – and sometimes series again. She can currently be seen as the neurotic monster-in-law of Nicole Kidman in the second season of “Big Little Lies”, in an impressive female ensemble spanning three generations.
The President may consider her “one of the most overrated actresses in Hollywood”. But one will still remember Meryl Streep, who celebrates her 70th birthday on Saturday, when Donald Trump is no more than a footnote.