Tuesday, March 9, 2010

What Fox Books "offered," that "Julia" will not permit

But if, too much of the time, I find Streep predictably mannered and actressy, there are also times when I fully succumb to adoring her, when all my conflicted and annoyed feelings about her are temporarily erased. I felt that way about her performance, as one-half of a sister-sister singing duo (opposite Lily Tomlin), in Robert Altman's final film, "A Prairie Home Companion." And I feel that way about her rendering of Julia Child in Nora Ephron's "Julie & Julia," which is my favorite of the Oscar-nominated actresses' performances this year. (Stephanie Zacharek, “My love-hate relationship with Meryl-Streep,” Salon, 2 March 2010)

What FOX Books offered, that "Julia" will not permit

I'm glad you titled your piece your "love-hate relationship with Meryl Streep," because anyone younger than a boomer would be doing something traitorous in offering Meryl Streep unambiguous praise while describing her performance in this film. This is the kind of film an established generation -- the boomers, in this case -- creates to further enshrine themselves. When she was still youngish and striving, Ephron created the film, "You've Got Mail," where a 30-ish-year-old woman is helped along her way to independence from her mother and her mores, by way of a representative of an ostensibly merciless patriarchal/corporate/non-domestic "force." With FOX Books, came the impossibility of living out her well-superior mother's plans for her, and life suddenly becomes more open, and she, more adult. Here we get a near replica, but this time an older Ephron offers us a would-be emergent -- Julie -- who we are supposed to understand as being bettered, not by finding some means to make her ostensibly worthy predecessors seem still worthy but also fatally fragile and out of date, not by slipping away from domesticity, but by becoming more and more acquainted with a maternal elder whose greatness makes her seem ever-so-much smaller.

Streep showed us someone grand and grounded-- someone who's accepting reaction to accidents no doubt once made a generation feel more relaxed and self-accepting, but who now serves to mock a younger generation who will never get to know an environment where they will be allowed to live as largely, with as much permissiveness, as she did. Streep is a vehicle of the established -- those who seem near joyously to be shutting down, covering over, deligitimizing the same escapes/narratives that empowered/legitimated their own ascension. For (especially) in comparison making Julie seem so scrambling and pathetic, for playing a part in making being scrambling and pathetic the natural-sexy way for the young to understand how THEIR life/professional- "development" will be acquired and permitted, I'm personally now much more in mind to hate than to love her.

Alice Munro chose not to let herself be nominated for a recent prominent literary prize. Regardless of her work's merit, she said she wanted herself less in the way of young writers. Perhaps she just wanted to be less the target for youngins' gathering murderous impulses, but my guess is she was responding to unacceptable routine privileging and other-writer neglect. True, she DID look even grander for doing so -- which surely drew as many eyes TO her, as it dissuaded away -- so I do leave some room to hope that Streep, in fact by being so OBVIOUSLY, possibly TRANSPARENTLY and SUSPICIOUSLY, crushingly awesome and superior here, is doing something even more generous in possibly INTENDING to open an avenue for making generational disquiet seem never-more appropriate and of the moment.

Link: My love-hate relationship with Meryl Streep

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