Sunday 17 July 2016

Best Leading Actress 1981: Meryl Streep - The French Lieutenant's Woman

The French Lieutenant's Woman is a very fine film with a wonderful leading performance of Jeremy Irons. There is another leading performance in the film given by Meryl Streep. Was her performance equally wonderful? Let's find out.
At the beginning of the film, Streep's character Sarah is kind of a mysterious woman. She is sad from something and she has a secret. It's all very well transformed into Streep's performance, yet I quite don't understand, why she was cast into this role. She succeeded in the acting part of the role, but somehow I didn't think that if I met such woman, I would have cared for her. Probably I wouldn't even notice her. It's about charm, or beauty, or some pizzazz that Streep misses.
Then after some time passes, we find out that she is called among all the town people „the french lieutenant's whore“, because she slept with a married man. We get to know the story of how it happened from Sarah's view. But even after we find out, what her story is, she always seems so mysterious. And that is probably the least juicy part for an actor, because if he doesn't have enough screen charisma, he becomes very bland. And that's exactly what happened in this case. Don't get me wrong, I love Meryl. But I can't help myself, I always found some of her primary performances to be a bit boring.
When Sarah and Jeremy Irons' character fall in love, it seems kind of forced. Their relationship simply doesn't have a development, it just happens. Me, as a man, couldn't see, why Irons would fall for her so madly. But when he did, Streep suddenly plays a woman in love and she is very good at it. She becomes very active and she wonderfully portrayed her happiness. It somehow works with her previous behavior. Beacuse later on we find out another truth that is a bit shocking, but I couldn't somehow take attitude towards it in terms of Streep's performance. Her previous performance is so ambiguous that after this shock, my reaction wasn't that her previous behavior somehow made sense. My reaction was simply: Okay, so now it's all different. It didn't affect me anyhow.
The other thing I have to mention is the fact that the film is separated in two parts. The main story that takes place in the past and the present, which is about the actors playing those parts. Streep is extremely bland in these scenes. She is very good at an axact characterization of a woman, but she is overshadowed by her co-star Irons, who has much bigger screen persona. I don't believe I am writing down these words, because Meryl is really my favourite actress, but it's how I felt about it. She only makes it up for me in her last scene that is her emotional outburst that is just wonderful. And that is exactly why this performance doesn't work for me. Because it is like a roller-coaster.
Meryl herself has recently said that if she has to point out one performance she's not satisfied with, it's this one. And I understand it. I'm even glad she said it, because I don't feel so bad for criticising her, now. She's not bad, but she's probably the least good in this.
The chances of winning an Oscar: I guess she was the second. Sarandon was a newcomer, so she was happy to be nominated, in addition the campaign in suppoting category wasn't very helpful, either. Mason's film wasn't that big and it's Razzie nod must have lowered down her chances. Keaton was considered great, but she had won recently. And according to the reviews Streep must have been the second. Who knows, if she had won for one of her best performances in Sophie's Choice, had had she won a year prior.