A couple of months ago, a certain someone made the claim that veteran actress and perpetual Hollywood favourite Meryl Streep is overrated. Admittedly, said claim wasn't based on any kind of thought-through cinematic analysis; rather, it was a reaction to Streep's public criticism of this person at the Golden Globes.
However, though her rallying stance in that speech was welcome, it doesn’t alter the fact that awards-givers are so blindly in love with her that she could probably show up for a cameo in a remake of Room and still get nominated. Can anyone really argue that she was more deserving of her latest Oscar nom (for Florence Foster Jenkins) than Amy Adams in Arrival?
That was her 20th – 20th! - nomination (including four for Best Supporting Actress), a total no other actress comes close to. That’s 13 more than Ingrid Bergman, 15 more than Audrey Hepburn, and even eight more than the incomparable Katharine Hepburn. But whereas those legends fronted classics such as Casablanca, Roman Holiday, and Bringing Up Baby, how many classic films stand out from Streep’s career?
There’s plenty of the kind of Oscar-bait that woos the Academy but fails to impress the critics, such as Sophie’s Choice and Out of Africa. Kramer Vs Kramer, The Deer Hunter, and Adaptation all fare better, but she only has relatively minor roles in them. The Devil Wears Prada? Camp fun, but hardly a classic. And don’t even start on the offensive sentimentalisation of Margaret Thatcher that won her a record-breaking third Oscar for The Iron Lady.
Great actresses are backed up by great bodies of work but, despite Streep’s extraordinary range and longevity, film buffs of the future will find few of her films worth watching. Or is it just me?
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