by Patricia Grandjean
Dec 29, 2010
01:07 PMBox Office
Disagree if you must, but we count ourselves among the naysayers who are dismayed that, indeed, Connecticut's own Meryl Streep has been tapped to star as former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the upcoming biopic, The Iron Lady. Many of these objections have centered around the fact that La Streep isn't British. That isn't our objection. It's always been wrongheaded to suggest that an actor must share background with his/her characters to be effective. If that were the case, why call it "acting?" Or, as Jim Broadbent—who will play Thatcher's husband Denis once cameras start rolling next month—put it, in an interview with NYMag.com:
"I think years ago a film about Thatcher was attempted, and they had a phone-in vote on a BBC morning news program: "Who do you think should play Margaret Thatcher?" And Meryl actually came out on top! I think it's perceived that Thatcher needs a star, really, and she's perfect casting in many ways. She's got a good look, and she'll absolutely do it in a brilliant way. She's also got an interesting eye on the script: She can bring an outsider's view on the story, so that it won't become a lazy, parochial piece that Brits understand but where nobody else really knows what's going on. She can ask the questions that foreign audiences will ask."
Fair enough. Our objection to Streep's casting is much simpler: We're tired of her. Lately, despite everything we hear about how difficult it is for actresses of a certain age to land plum roles, it seems like she's locked up every high-profile part except the matriarchs in the "Fockers" series (and thank goodness for that). Of course, she's an appropriate age choice, at 61, to play the Margaret Thatcher represented in this film, which concerns itself largely with the period of the Falklands War (which broke out in 1982, when Thatcher was 54). But so is Glenn Close, at 62. Or Sigourney Weaver, also 61. Or Laura Linney, at 45. Or, for that matter—going back to the "British is best" meme—Dame Helen Mirren, at 65. Or any number of capable actresses who aren't nearly as well known. After all, does a movie of this prestige stripe really need reliable "stars" to make it shine? If that's the case, why cast Broadbent (who is British) when you could probably get Jeff Bridges or Harrison Ford?
We realize that the mantra on Streep has always been, "She's a chameleon, she can play anything, she's brilliant." In recent years, though, we think that's worn thin, having seen her play insufferably cutesy and clunky in Mamma Mia (a disaster all around), It's Complicated (Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin carried her—imagine that—in a role Diane Keaton would have sailed through) and yes, even the Oscar catnip Julie & Julia (we don't care what admirers say, we'll take Sandra Bullock's fine, tough-minded turn in The Blind Side over Streep's mannered Julia Child impression any day). By the way, we suspect it's the Oscar chase the Iron Lady filmmakers are really after, but if so, any one of the aforementioned actresses would also serve them well. Although we will admit that Streep's always had a knack for playing "steely," if that's the Thatcher that's needed in this film. (We have a special fondness for her frigid turn as the Anna Wintour stand-in in The Devil Wears Prada.)
In short, is Streep really the finest actress of her generation? We have our doubts, having come to think of her as the most overexposed and overrated. But once that laurel has been laid at someone's feet, it's hard to dispute.Meryl, Again