Sunday, February 16, 2014

Best Actress 2013: Meryl Streep in August Osage County

Meryl Streep received  her 18th Oscar nomination for playing Violet Weston, a mean, sadistic woman who is also a drug  addict in August Osage County.

Cate Blanchett must be thanking her lucky stars right now, not only because she took the Best Actress award at the BAFTA just now, but also because it has completed a long precursor awards sweep that probably never would have happened if Meryl Streep hadn't  beat Viola Davis for Best Actress two years ago for The Iron Lady.  If that hadn't happened, this would have been Meryl's year: It's such a juicy role and there would have been an anonymous consensus that Meryl deserved her third Oscar at last. But since that didn't happen, Meryl is now the least likely to win.  She could have gained some momentum if August had been released earlier, but given it's late release and the movie's critical pans, Meryl was even considered a strong possibility to be snubbed.  Well, no Oscar nomination can be slipped past Meryl Streep, and the Academy made a wise choice to include her in the list of the nominees. But (As previously mentioned) the film's reception and her previous win will keep her from winning.

August Osage County is a great movie: The material is brilliant, but the movie itself is great in it's own right much better then all the critics were saying.  It's extremely fun to watch and powerfully dramatic when it needs to be and the performances are all fantastic.  It loses some of it's power towards the end, but the same can be said about the play, whose 2nd act isn't quite as good as it's first, but the same can be said about many plays and musicals, whose first act is usually the juicier and most interesting, and then the 2nd act drops a little.

Meryl Streep delivers a very typical Meryl performance: It's clear that she's having a lot of fun with this character, and her brilliantly calculated style of acting suits Violet very well.  That said, the performance does border a bit on cartoonish, some of her big moments are bit too exaggerated and Meryl sometimes overdoes it.  But Meryl does do an amazing job with the emotional, human aspect of Violet as well:  She shows Violet immense pain and suffering, from having to go through an immensely hard life and not getting much of a letup from anything.  Streep shows her brutal, yet incredibly funny side, the side that causes her to lash out at her family members.  These scenes are very enjoyable to watch, yet incredibly sad as well because of how Streep makes us feel sympathy for Violet. She may be an awful woman on the surface, but Streep makes us her understand her suffering and makes us feel pity for her.

She has many great moments:Meryl packs a punch during the dinner scene, slowly and subtly building up her character's anger and grief, resulting in one of the most powerful scenes  in Meryl's career. It's hard not to hear the truth in Violet's words here, and it's amazing watching Meryl dig deep within this character to deliver such great results. She also adds some heartbreaking vulnerability during a monologue  to her daughters about a childhood crush.  It's great and very meaningful work.

Meryl Streep, overall, delivers a strong, richly powerful performance in a difficult role.  She may over do some of the scenes, but overall it's haunting and great achievement that makes  us  feel joy, feel disgust, appalled, sympathy, and love for this mean, yet wickedly funny and painfully sympathetic woman. She gets


Louis Morgan said...

I did think she was effective, but it did always feel like Streep played it up a bit too much at tiems.

dinasztie said...

I really loved her, so I guess I agree.

So, has Cate's Bafta win made you sure about her chances? :)

joe burns said...

Louis: Yes, that's true, but Streep does do wonderful here.

Dinasztie: Yes, it's looking like Cate is assured now. Adams loss at BAFTA makes her a very unlikely winner, but we'll see when the envelope is opened.