Saturday, November 20, 2010

Meryl Streep in Postcards from the Edge

Marvelous Meryl Streep received her ninth Oscar nomination for playing Suzanne Vale, a drug-addicted actress in Mike Nichols' movie, Postcards from the Edge. We all know that Meryl Streep is Meryl Streep and everyone who's called Meryl Streep is just adored by the Academy. Despite this fact I think that Meryl was probably fourth or fifth in the final voting, but you will never know. No matter what, Suzanne became a very popular performance of Meryl.

Postcards from the Edge is not a great movie, but not a bad one either: Mike Nichols has enormous talent, but sometimes he just went too over-the-top (like this and Working Girl). However I was never embarassed by the movie, actually, I had great fun in it and its performers. Shirley MacLaince gives an excellent performance as the alcoholic and bit dumb mother, though I can't really decide if she's supporting or leading. But that doesn't really influence me as I really liked her. It was very nice to see the other famous actors in this movie, I especially liked Gene Hackman's cameo as the director.

But if anyone mentions Postcards from the Edge, one thing pops into the mind to everybody: Meryl is singing and it's not Mamma Mia! Although she sings twice in this movie, her last number is the most remember and praised one. But more about that later.

Meryl is playing essentially Carrie Fisher and let me say that she's miscast in my opinion. The sarcastic, witty drug addict simply doesn't fit Meryl's personality and that's why sometimes it was a bit unusual to watch Meryl acting like that. Although she certainly is miscast, I think that she's able to give a very funny and emotional performance which really connects to the audience. We instantly like the character of Suzanne, she's pathetic, broken-down, desperate and that's the way we get to know her. She becomes so human, and this aspect of the character is so perfectly underlined by Meryl. She gets extremely close to your heart and makes you feel sorry for Suzanne.

It's interesting that Postcards from the Edge essentially consists of lightweight drama and comedy: it's really neither, it's rather a strange mix, which is quite distracting to tell the truth. It is neither laugh-out-loud funny nor very deep, therefore it falls in between and it's just a bit of failure. However, Meryl miraclously found the perfect balance between the genres. She is both hilarious and hearbreaking, and always knows when to use what. Meryl's delivery of the sarcastic lines is just brilliant and by this shows a very vulnerable side of Suzanne. She uses humor as a defense mechanism and makes fun of everything when she's embarassed.

Reading the story, one would think that this performance really sizzles when Meryl has scenes with Shirley, but I think that's not the whole truth. Her best moments come when she's alone worrying about her career, like when she is listening to a conversation about how awful she looks. Her faces are not just hilarious, but also show how miserable this character is. The filming scenes are able to show this emotions extremely well, and that's when Meryl truly rocks as Suzanne. The real highlight comes somewhere around the ending with Gene Hackman: there are so many quiet emotions in that hug between them. Everything is so delicate and charming and never pushy.

However before that, there are two great confrontation scenes between Meryl and Shirley which are really worth mentioning: two disappointed, bitter has-been divas quarelling with each other. Although they do not reach extreme dramatic heights with it, I don't think that it was the purpose of it to do so. And yet there's again some quiet emotional weight in them, which cannot be got across. It's just complicated to describe.

The hospital scenes in the end, when Meryl does Shirley's make-up has also exceptional moments from both ladies: both are bitter but in very different and complex ways. I was just so relieved by that scene to tell the truth. And then comes the real treat: Meryl's last scene, the singing. Oh my goodness, it is just really one of the greatest numbers ever recorded. There are such powerful emotions going right there and the character almost burns down the screen. Meryl's voice and singing is not only perfect, but also extremely powerful. It's no wonder, that it became one of her most famous scenes.

So to sum up, although Meryl is a bit miscast (that's not her fault actually), her performance as the desperate Suzanne Vale is pitch-perfect: it's hilarious, a bit saddening, powerful, emotional and extremely loveable. Meryl nails all the aspects and faces of this characters and createst one of her most vibrant turns ever. Exceptional work by an extraordinary talent.
Meryl gets naturally 4,5 Meryls.

What do you think?

Just something unexpected: the poll. There's such heated contest between 1966 and 1986, which I did not expect. So keep on voting, so that your favored year wins.


Fritz said...

Very interesting. I haven't seen her yet but I am looking forward to.

dinasztie said...

Fritz, you MUST! :-)

Sage Slowdive said...

Oh wow, didn't see that coming...

Louis Morgan said...

I have seen part of the performance, I was not overly impressed, and I would agree she was miscast.

Anne T. Shattuck said...

I saw this film today for the first time, and I absolutely loved all three songs. I had no idea that Meryl Streep sings, and that last song really "sent" me!

I liked the movie also, however the three songs surprised and delighted me!