Saturday, July 5, 2008

Mamma Mia, indeed

You couldn't just have fun, could you, Meryl Streep? You couldn't just say, I chose to do Mamma Mia!, the screen version of the ABBA musical, because it looked like an enjoyable time for me and the audience. No, you had to describe the way that the play cheered people up in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, just so we all know you really did have a serious and meaningful reason when you signed up to sing "Knowing Me, Knowing You."

To my mind, Streep's talent has been done a disservice by her tendency to take only the most serious-minded, usually political roles, while shunning the popular and the truly artistically groundbreaking. As a result, few of her projected signature roles have had legs. Everyone at the time thought Silkwood would last the test of time, but does anyone watch Silkwood now? She's in danger of being remembered only for movies that nobody ever sees.

So given a new lease on relevance in the popular mind with summer counterprogramming fare like The Devil Wears Prada and now Mamma Mia!, she goes and insists that she's doing it for a serious reason. Mamma Mia, indeed.


Evan Derrick said...

Stuff like this bugs me too. I remember watching an interview with Jet Li to promote Cradle 2 the Grave or Romeo Must Die or one of those other team-up-with-lame-rapper films he did, and the interviewer asked him how he got into his roles and what about the story inspired him. He looked stunned for a second and then said something along the lines of, "You know this film is for just for fun, right?" That interview gave me a lot of respect for Jet Li.

K. Bowen said...

Exactly. Why can't she just admit that she's riding the chick-flick gravy train so she doesn't become that great actress who appeared in all those semi-memorable movies? What's wrong with wanting to be in a few entertaining pictures?

Evan Derrick said...

She needs to do a trashy over-the-hill romantic comedy (you know, pair up with a geriatric leading man like Harrison Ford or, lets get a bit risky, Morgan Freeman). The Devil Wears Prada was good half-n-half film, a little bit on the grandiose scale, a little bit on the guilty pleasure one, but lets go all out, Meryl.

Anonymous said...

they asked her why she wrote the letter to the cast of the musical - and that was a few days after 11/9.

and that was long before they have thougt about a movie.

so please keep your facts clear.

K. Bowen said...

Fair enough. I withdraw my last comment and apologize.

Daniel G. said...

I'm confused with the anonymous comment.

"She sent a thank-you letter to the cast. Producer Judy Cramer and director Phyllida Lloyd saw it, and mentally filed it away. They knew that Mamma Mia! would one day be a film." Wasn't that all at the same time, right after 9/11?

I agree with your original point.

K. Bowen said...

Well, I think it's fair for the poster to point out that Ms. Streep expressed her sentiments contemporaneously, thus indicating sincerity rather than calculation in her current statements.

That said, I still hold that Meryl Streep's career has been hampered by a degree of overseriousness, and more importantly the wrong kind of seriousness.

But I want to say:

1) Like most everybody, I admire her acting skills.

2) I'm actually looking forward to Mamma Mia! It looks like it could be a fun diversion from male summer movies. Plus, I dig ABBA.

3) She should definitely be praised for extending her reach into more popular fare. The actors with the longest legacy usually have a balance. A trashy romance could be fun. But something like The Upside of Anger would work well.

4) I think Prada, for various reasons, will have longer legs than people suspect. I call it the female Top Gun. Her performance is a big reason why.