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The Meryl Streep Backlash is As Predictable as It is Disappointing

Below is a list of quotes pulled from numerous publications and assembled by ONTD.

What's strange is that the reviews don't sound wholly negative. It's fine to give Meryl Streep a negative review if she's earned it. But instead it seems like people are using a potentially scenery-chewing OTT role to pile on Meryl Streep's reputation as the best living actress. Even the positive reviews paint her as a scene stealer in a way that sounds almost accusatory.


Maybe I just feel defensive of Meryl (who is, by the way, the greatest living actress — so don't even try), but I'm irritated by how much people want to watch her pedestal crumble.

Streep plays Vi Weston, the pill-gobbling matriarch of an Oklahoma plains family who can't open her mouth without some version of her idea of the truth popping out: Women get uglier as they age; children who leave home to lead their own lives are ungrateful wretches; refusing to wear makeup makes a woman look like a lesbian; and so forth. In the big dinner-table scene — because that's where the biggest truth bombs always get dropped — Vi, hopped up on pills, presides over her motley brood with cruel, woozy authority, her terrible mouth motoring on. Vi rules the roost, just as Streep rules the scene. No other performer in August: Osage County — not Julia Roberts, not Chris Cooper, not Ewan McGregor — can get in her way. Her gaze vaporizes all other actors on contact. If she were a Batman villain, she'd be called The Actress.


Streep is affecting when she appears in several scenes sans wig, holding a cigarette in her bony twisted fingers and slurring her words, drawn and frail and beaten down by cancer and addiction. But when she puts on that fake do, she turns into a camp harridan, playing to the balcony. Letts hates this woman so much he gives her no aspect of grace, and Streep doesn't rise above the conception.

But there are some saving grace notes throughout. Streep is at her Streep-iest, given a wig to wear, and allowed to look ugly, and she takes to sneering, emotionally volatile Violet with ease. She commands the screen and many scenes like she should, but has a great foil in Roberts playing Barbara.

Much as I adore Meryl Streep in most roles (and I'm a pretty hard-core champion of even the hammiest Meryl: I loved Mamma Mia!, for God's sake), her performance as the narcotics-popping, bile-spewing Violet Weston would be too broad as seen from the back row of Yankee Stadium.And most of the cast try to keep up by frantically stuffing into their maws whatever crumbs of scenery Streep leaves unchewed.

It goes without saying that nobody can beat Ms. Streep at this game. Remember Amy Adams in "Julie and Julia"? Anne Hathaway in "The Devil Wears Prada"? Anyone at all in "The Iron Lady"? Of course not. Here Ms. Streep smokes, rants, bites her fingers, slurs her speech and spews obscenities with the gusto of a tornado laying waste to a small town. Julia Roberts, playing Barbara, Beverly's favorite daughter and therefore Violet's rival, tries to hold her own by refusing to smile. She also slaps a face and breaks a plate. It's hardly a fair contest.

As Vi, Streep is every bit as mercurial, ferocious and funny as one would expect. Slapping on a brunette wig over a sparse crop of gray when she can be bothered, she careers from needling attacks to sneaky insinuations, from drugged-out incoherence to puddles of self-pity, often punctuating those shifts with a vulgar snort of a laugh. However, like her work in another recent screen adaptation of a Broadway hit, Doubt, she hits all her marks with brilliant technique yet brings no element of surprise. As good as Streep is, the chewy part actually might have benefited from a left-field casting choice.

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