From Sophie to the "Devil" to Julia: The Memorable Meryl Streep

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There's a scene in The Devil Wears Prada where Andy Sachs, played by Anne Hathaway, comes upon her boss Miranda Priestly, played by Meryl Streep. Miranda is sitting at home in a robe, lacking makeup and her usual fashion industry 'tude.  She's just discovered her marriage is over and although clearly devastated, she struggles to maintain her pride, her arrogance and her grand, Miranda Priestly-ness. 

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Image: 20th Century Fox

In that one scene, Meryl Streep turned what could have been a terribly cliche moment into something very real and very moving.  She made what might have been a caricature into a very flesh and blood woman.

It was that kind of scene that made The Devil Wears Prada more than just an exercise in ho-hum fluff.  

But that's what Meryl Streep does:  She transforms words on a page into magic on a screen.

She also appears to be a lot of fun. If you don't believe me, check out the liplock she and Sandra Bullock shared at the recent Critic's Choice Movie Awards.

15th Annual Critics' Choice Movie Awards - Show

Those are just a couple of the reasons that Meryl Streep's in the middle of a career resurgence that most over-40 women in Hollywood only dream about.

PS, don't tell anyone, but Meryl's 60! Gasp!

But that's also why she's beyond fabulous.

Streep's won two Academy Awards and holds the record for most Oscar nominations, at 16.

Her latest wakeup call on Oscar nomination morning came for last year's comedy Julie and Julia, where Streep plays the feisty and exuberant chef Julia Child during her formative cooking years as a new bride and new student at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris.

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Image: Columbia Pictures

This was another role that easily could have descended into bad mimicry without the skill of an actress like Streep.  In her hands, we chuckled at Julia's distinctively high-pitched voice, but with warmth and love because she was so infectiously likable.

Though she's worked steadily most of her career, many of Streep's roles in the '90s came as supporting player to younger stars like, Nicole Kidman in The Hours, Uma Thurman in Prime and Tilda Swinton in Adaptation.

Seemingly written off by Hollywood, Streep has come roaring back in the last few years with popular box office hits like Prada, 2008's musical Mamma Mia, and her other big movie last year, a romantic comedy about a woman who has an affair with her cheating ex-husband, It's Complicated.

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Image: Miramax

Her last Oscar nomination came for the film Doubt, where she played an old-school nun trying to prove a new-school priest guilty of sexually abusing a student.  We're never really sure what happened between the priest and the boy, but Sister Aloysius Beauvier is -- until she isn't.

Streep first turned Hollywood heads in the 1977 Vietnam drama The Deer Hunter, but she made herself a Hollywood fixture when she co-starred with Dustin Hoffman as a mother who deserts her husband and son in Kramer vs. Kramer.  She won her first Oscar for that role.

From then to now, Streep's hits have far outweighed her misses and though she still has to live down films like Death Becomes Her and She Devil, for someone with a talent like hers, much can be forgiven.

The shining moment of her career however is Sophie's Choice, the story of a Polish concentration camp survivor living in post-WWII Brooklyn.  It's the film that turned Streep, the exceptional actress, into Streep, the legend. The Oscar she won for playing Sophie Kawistoski somehow felt inadequate for Streep's extraordinary work in that film.

Streep spent months learning German and a flawless Polish accent, but her mastery of the accent and her linguistic skills were nothing compared to how she completely transformed into the fragile, flawed woman whose guilt about her actions during the war, eventually consumes her.

Sophies choice
Image: Universal
The scenes of Sophie perched on a window seat, the camera riveted to her face are some of the most powerful and mesmerizing moments in filmmaking.
Bar none, it's the most haunting performance I've ever seen. 

That's beyond acting. That's the work of a legend. 

Related Links:

A review of "It's Complicated" at What I Watched

Ranking Meryl Streep's Oscar Nominated Roles

Meryl Streep's Golden Globe Speech at Glorious Gay Days

"Hollywood's Amazing Women of Film and Television" by Megan Smith

 

Megan Smith is the BlogHer Contributing Editor covering Television/Online Video.     Her other blogs are Megan's Minute, quirky commentary around the clock and Meg's Rad Review.

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