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Tag Archives: Meryl Streep

Suffragette

At the turn of the twentieth century, many women in England are frustrated at being constantly “invisible” or identified as only “his daughter …” or “his wife …” They see that their lives can be different – particularly if they’re allowed to vote – and many feel strongly enough to take action against the “establishment”. Maud Watts (played by Carey Mulligan) is one such woman. She’s been to the same workhouse every day since she was a child at her mother’s skirts. At thirteen, she started working there herself and she’s put up with constant sexual harassment by her cruel boss ever since. Women learn to “keep quiet and stay in their place”. Emmeline Pankhurst (by Meryl Streep), emerges as a leader of this ripple of discontent as women across the country start to publicly protest so the government will take notice of them. The “women’s suffrage” movement grows – women take part in secret, while men view the whole thing with disdain. Along with others from the area, Maud becomes a disciple of the women’s movement. She faces police brutality when she’s jailed and shame from her husband Sonny, (by Ben Whishaw) as he disowns her for taking a stand – isolating her from her son George (by Adam Michael Dodd). But she strongly believes in her quest for equality and “votes for women”. This story is based on true events during the early days of the feminist movement in England and demonstrates the lengths some women are prepared to go for the cause …

This is an effective and moving drama. As Maud, Carey Mulligan portrays the emotions and challenges of women’s lives during these turbulent times. She cares deeply for her son but the demand for women’s rights cuts deep too, so she struggles with her conflicting emotions and instincts. The hardship of their lives is clear and the ignorant hatred many (including women) in the community have for the suffragettes is palpable. The movie features several strong and entertaining performances – it’s great to see Helena Bonham Carter in the key role of Edith Ellyn. A particularly influential character at the time, she is very well supported here by her husband Hugh (by Finbar Lynch). The story features all the aspects of a good drama – high emotion, deep principles, poverty, hunger strikes, secrets, violence, sexual tension and political intrigue – all told well in a very watchable movie. It reaches its climax when the Suffragettes plan to take non-violent action at a race meeting. Here, the real life drama of 1913 plays out – when 40 year old Emily Davison (by Natalie Press) is tragically and inexplicably struck down by the King’s horse at the Epsom Derby. The movie has won several awards for best actor, supporting actors and characterisations.

Made in 2015. Directed by Sarah Gavron.

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Posted by on May 26, 2016 in Movies

 

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August: Osage County

It’s August in Osage County, Oklahoma – and it’s hot … really hot. Violet Weston (played by Meryl Streep) is doing her best to endure the heat. She’s dying of cancer and the heat makes the wig she wears unbearable. Her husband, Beverly (by Sam Shepard) has just hired a new nurse and live-in housekeeper to see to Violet’s needs and he is introducing her to the ways of the household. Violet introduces herself as only she can … she staggers into the room, drug addled, slurring her words and belligerent. The new home-help, Johnna (by Misty Upham) does her best to accept the situation and the person now in her care. Knowing she is in capable hands, Beverly takes himself out fishing – but disappears. Violet alerts her family that Beverly is missing and they gradually all arrive to search for him and make sure their mother is okay. Violet’s daughter, Ivy (by Julianne Nicholson) lives nearby so she arrives quickly, she calls her sister Barbara (by Julia Roberts) who comes with her husband Bill (by Ewan McGregor) and their teenage daughter Jean (by Abigail Breslin). Then comes Violet’s sister, Mattie Fae (by Margo Martindale) and her husband Charlie (by Chris Cooper), followed by their son Little Charles (by Benedict Cumberbatch) and the third sister, Karen (by Juliette Lewis) and her fiancé Steve (by Dermot Mulroney). Everyone is here … now to unravel the mystery of Beverly’s disappearance … and of course uncover family tensions and secrets that should have been long buried ….

This movie is dark – both in its presentation and its mood. Violet lives in a house where the shades are down all the time – she does this with parts of her life too. Her daughters don’t see eye to eye with each other, nor with their mother. Violet is unpredictable, prone to outbursts of violence and can be sharp-tongued – her daughters, particularly Barbara, have learned this too. They bring all their family troubles back to the house and churn them all up again in this drama. As you would expect from such a strong cast, the performances are all good. I’ve never seen Meryl Streep in such a confronting role – she is fabulous. Margo Martindale and Chris Cooper support her well. The tension between Barbara and Bill portrayed by Julia Roberts and Ewan McGregor is clear, but a bit pedestrian. Add to this the flighty Karen, again performed well, but just going through the motions really, by Juliette Lewis but her sleaze-ball fiancé Steve, Dermot Mulroney seems to do with ease. The roles of Little Charles, Ivy and Jean all have potential, but are never really explored. It’s a good combination – but the movie is probably a bit too long for its superficiality. Okay … we get the point – these people don’t get on, don’t trust each other and don’t really like each other, the family secrets will come out – truths will hurt and nobody will be happy. It’s the dramatization of the play by Tracy Letts, the Pulitzer Prize winner in 2008. Both Meryl Street and Julia Roberts were nominated for an Academy Award (Oscar) for their performances here.

Made in 2013. Directed by John Wells

 
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Posted by on April 27, 2014 in Movies

 

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The Devil Wears Prada

Andy (played by Anne Hathaway) is an ambitious graduate who aspires to be a journalist in New York City. Getting a job is tough, so she takes an opportunity as personal “everything” assistant to the Editor of Runway, Miranda Priestly (by Meryl Streep). Runway is the leading women’s fashion magazine and Miranda – a hard task master – is well known in fashion circles as “the devil herself”. At first, Andy has little time or interest in fashion and she is looked down upon, by none moreso than Miranda’s “first” Assistant, Emily (by Emily Blunt), who is disdainful and intolerant of Andy’s dowdy dress sense and seeming ignorance of anything “fashion”. Andy realises she must try to toe the fashion line to get noticed and get her career started, so she enlists the help of the magazine’s Design Chief Nigel, (by Stanley Tucci), who decks her out in everything from Chanel and Dolce & Gabbana to Michael Kors and back again. Andy must jump at every unreasonable whim of Miranda’s and be on duty 24×7, so her relationship with boyfriend Nate (by Adrian Granier) takes a nose-dive. She must balance the demands of her job, her relationship and her burning ambition to find the right road ahead and a life that’s do-able.

This comedy is very entertaining. The fashion industry is portrayed in a tongue-in-cheek way that makes it allowable and the messages are delivered well.  Meryl Streep is glorious as the smart and blinkered Miranda and she was nominated for several awards (including an Academy Award [Oscar]) for this work. Anne Hathaway is good and reliable as the badgered, frustrated Andy but the best performances are Emily Blunt’s self-centred and utterly marvellous Emily, “first” assistant to Miranda and Stanley Tucci’s georgeous and straight-talking Nigel – once again he is marvellous in this important support role but he may never get a mention – he seems adept at choosing these roles to shine in. Of course, one cannot help but draw parallels between this ficticious production and the real life documentary The September Issue where we learn about the workstyle of Anna Wintour, Editor-in-Chief of American Vogue magazine. This movie is one of those ones that you wouldn’t mind seeing over again.  It’s just pure entertainment. It’s based on the best-selling novel of the same name by Lauren Weisberger – and now I understand a sequel is about to be published – how delicious!. Well done David Frankel.

Made in 2006. Directed by David Frankel

 
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Posted by on June 17, 2013 in Movies

 

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Hope Springs

Kay (played by Meryl Streep) has been married to Arnold (by Tommy Lee Jones) for over 30 years. They live a settled, comfortable married life that is driven by Arnold’s routine. Lately Kay really feels things have become distant and cold between them and she is deeply disappointed that Arnold seems to have totally lost interest in her. She wants to do something about this and when she seeks an answer to bring the “spark” and warmth back for them, she discovers Dr Feld (by Steve Carell), a psychologist who specialises in issues for long-term marriages. He runs a successful intensive couples program at Great Hope Springs in Maine, and she enrols herself and Arnold. At first, Arnold views this program with disdain – he sees nothing wrong with their life together (and he views the program as a hugely expensive waste of time). He eventually (but reluctantly) attends with Kay. They spend the week in Great Hope Springs and face the issues that arise through sessions with Dr Feld. Is there nothing to fix? Is Kay hoping to rekindle something that should just be a lovely memory now? Is there really no hope for them? ….

This movie is billed as a comedy, but it actually exposes some quite sensitive real-life issues faced by couples in long term relationships. For this reason, the movie is brave and marvellous. It seems that in Hollywood key facets of our intimate relationships are treated as taboo and they are rarely addressed in movies – but they do appear here and no punches are pulled. Sex (particularly for those over 50) and relationships are discussed openly and realistically. Both Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones are excellent as Kay and Arnold. Their awkwardness and anxiety is palpable and this results in their sessions with Dr Feld being wonderfully authentic. The film isn’t a comedy – unless you find disappointment and frustration funny – it’s really quite a serious drama. Meryl Streep’s portrayal of Kay is sensitive, honest and natural. She has been nominated for a 2013 Golden Globe for this performance, which confirms once again her marvellous talent. It’s a good movie.

Made in 2012. Directed by David Frankel

 
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Posted by on January 7, 2013 in Movies

 

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Dark Matter

Liu Xing (played by Ye Liu) is a brilliant young Chinese student of astronomy and cosmology. He is educated in China and due to his academic excellence, he is awarded a scholarship to a University in Salt Lake City, Utah. He studies under the guidance of world famous Professor Jacob Reiser (by Aidan Quinn) to develop Reiser’s ground-breaking model of the Big Bang Theory and the existence of “dark matter” in the universe. On his arrival in Utah, Liu Xing joins the other Chinese graduate students in the program. Joanna Silver (by Meryl Streep), a natural carer with strong maternal instinct, is responsible for the integration and wellbeing of all the Chinese students while they are studying in Utah. She provides Chinese cultural activities and social interractions for them and she is particularly drawn to Liu Xing. He is an innocent but ambitious young man, keen to excel in his work and honour the reputation of his great mentor, Professor Reiser. He has left his proud parents and family behind in China but he writes often, to give them news of his success in America and to assure them he works hard to fulfill their hopes for him. Professor Reiser immediately sees the impressive potential in Liu Xing as he starts to develop his own ideas about the theory. But soon, Liu Xing’s brilliance starts to outshine the program and Professor Reiser fears his own bright light will start to fall into the shadows of his young protege. Politics and jealousy start to impede on the beauty of the scientific theory, which threatens to have life-changing consequences for everyone.

This movie is an unpolished gem. It is unassuming in every respect but delivers an unforgettable story based on actual events. Young Ye Liu portrays the innocent, passionate and highly intelligent Liu Zing with excellence. His wide-eyed acceptance of all things American is very well done and when things start to unravel for him his despair is palpable. He is marvellous. Meryl Streep and Aidan Quinn are strong here too – they kind of creep up on you, as the movie is a slow burn to a high impact conclusion. The other actors who play the fellow Chinese students make the movie watchable and give it a social realism because they are worldly-wise enough to know how to “please the boss”, do only what’s really necessary to get what they want and generally make the most of the American lifestyle while they can have it. Scene and cinematography are just as bland as the university surroundings – but this is appropriate, to give the viewer a sense of the grey university walls, empty life (apart from the studying) and the vain attempts of the local cultural group to provide some familiar surroundings for these international visitors. As I said, it’s a slow burn – and ultimately it’s a good movie.

Made in 2007. Directed by Shi-Zheng Chen

 
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Posted by on August 21, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Lions for Lambs

Professor Stephen Malley (played by Robert Redford) is a college professor of Political Science with a profound belief in doing what’s right and a deep conscience. He is an Vietnam Veteran and since his return he has endeavoured to educate all around him about the senselessness of war. One day he meets with one of his most promising students Todd Hayes (by Andrew Garfield) after Hayes shows signs of burnout and lack of motivation in class. The Professor and his student discuss a range of life issues – Malley uses this as a way to engender a spark of enthusiasm in Hayes. Along the way we learn of two other of Malley’s students who were so significantly moved by their learnings in his classes that they took action on their deep conviction to do what’s right. In a parallel story, we view the ongoing action of US troops in Afghanistan, carrying out dangerous manoeuvres to further the War on Terror. One action results in the potential ambush of two wounded and stricken US soldiers by Afghani insurgents and we watch as this perilous situation unfolds. Back in Washington DC, we also meet Senator Jasper Irving (by Tom Cruise) who wants to “move and shake” the War on Terror by instigating his own strategy. He meets with the long experienced journalist Janine Roth (by Meryl Streep) who he has called upon to report and promote his intentions to the voting public.

This movie promises much, but unfortunately is a little insipid in its delivery. The structure of the movie presents the viewers with three parallel scenarios and this is well done – it keeps the movie interesting, but much of it (apart from the military action) is merely a talk-fest. Having said that however, the performances are good – Redford and Cruise are strong, but also predictable. Meryl Streep’s character has a lot of potential but only finishes up as average – she starts off as a strong female character but unfortunately by the end the audience is left thinking of her as just another a jaded reporter. The most interesting story is of the two stricken US troops in Afghanistan; the best performance is from Andrew Garfield who at least injects a bit of colour and interest into his scenario. The stories do come together somewhat at the conclusion. As entertainment, it is okay at best, but it does have some interesting messages and you may well find yourself mulling over these for some time afterwards.

Made in 2007. Directed by Robert Redford

 
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Posted by on August 17, 2012 in Movies

 

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Prime

David Bloomberg (played by Bryan Greenberg) is a smart guy and a talented artist who lives in New York city. He is very close with his extended family – they are not keen on him being an artist (much preferring him to be an accountant) but, being Jewish, they are very keen for him to marry within his religion. His roommate Morris (by Jon Abrahams) is a one-time only dater with a habit of dramatically breaking up with each girl after the first date. They live in a typically chaotic apartment inhabited by young guys. One evening, David runs into a group of friends at the movies and is introduced to Raphaelle ‘Rafi’ Gardet (by Uma Thurman). He is instantly attracted to her. He’s aware she is older than him but ventures to ask her out anyway and they start dating. Rafi is tentative because she’s trying to get over a failed marriage, but she feels a “spark” with him and loves how witty and talented he is. She is also flattered by the attention of this much younger man so she shares her confusing feelings with her great therapist, Dr. Lisa Metzger (by Meryl Streep). After a few sessions, the therapist realizes that Rafi is having this affair with her son! Dr Metzger is now in a professional and personal dilemma … her client – with her son?? her older client – with her younger son?? her older gentile client – with her younger Jewish son??  …this is just far too much for her to comprehend, far less live with.  Will the strength of Rafi and David’s relationship withstand the tension and influence of those around them who just don’t understand?

I am quite prepared to admit that I am the totally wrong demographic to enjoy this movie, at least I hope so. For the most part, it follows the usual romantic comedy storyline and structure, but there is an intriguing ending which actually makes it nicer than most. Bryan Greenberg and Uma Thurman have a marvellous chemistry on screen and do make a wonderful couple in the story. She is just a stunning beauty who radiates from the screen and he is a handsome fellow, who looks older than he is – hence the plausibility of this scenario.  Jon Abrahams is totally annoying and immature, but just right to play Morris. Meryl Streep is completely awful as Dr Metzger – her styling and makeup is apalling and I am sure she didn’t have to try too hard to achieve what she provided for this role. The comedy is very clumsy throughout.  However, the grandparents (by Doris Belack and Jerry Adler) are typical and very good.  It’s not side-splittingly funny, more just a bit average for me.  As a movie, it’s okay to pass the time.

Made in 2005. Directed by Ben Younger

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2012 in Movies

 

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