Comediva of the Week: Meryl Streep

This week’s Comediva of the Week is living proof that you can be both a (now say this with me in an ostentatious faux-European accent) very serious actress, AND a hilarious comedienne, and not actually have multiple personalities. It’s easy not to realize how improbably this incredible woman’s career has been until you look at her filmography… Starring roles in both Sophie’s Choice and Mamma Mia… and award nominations for BOTH ROLES? Impossible. Unless, of course, you’re Meryl Streep.

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Meryl has always been compellingly beautiful, while never looking like the kind of girl Michael Bay would cast in a movie. Maybe that’s why Meryl has been so incredibly successful as a romantic lead — she’s gorgeous, but she looks like a real girl. And I don’t mean that in the usual, condescending, “she only has a professional blow out every third day and she wears glasses so clearly she’s an everywoman” sort of way. Meryl, when considered objectively, isn’t even that pretty. But she glows on the screen – whether she’s dressed in Versace or in rolled-up overalls. The intensity of focus and energetic abandon with which Meryl plays her roles, comic and otherwise, is the thing that makes her beautiful. Not the high cheek bones and big blue eyes.

Like many great male dramatic actors, Streep has found great success in turning her grace and natural gravitas into a source of comedy as she grows older. Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada is as full of dignity, pride, and buried emotional trauma, as is Karen Blixen in Out of Africa. Whether we laugh or cry with Meryl is simply a matter of degrees and character shading, which is probably how Streep ended up being one of the few actresses who is as often acclaimed for her comic roles as her dramatic ones.

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Playing for laughs or playing for tears, nobody can say that Meryl is overlooked. She holds the record for both Oscar and Golden Globe nominations, and for Golden Globe wins (seven, the show-off). She’s also got two Emmys two SAG Awards, a BAFTA award, and a Tony Award nomination. Oh, and five Grammy nominations, because acting awards just weren’t enough for her, apparently. If she decided to read the phonebook, she’d probably get a nomination for that too.

So why does Meryl Streep steal the spotlight the moment she hits the screen, no matter what she’s doing? It’s passion. Every story about Meryl eventually hits on her intense engagement with her craft. Rumor has it that she literally stole a copy of the script for Sophie’s Choice and threw herself at the feet of director Alan J. Pakula begging for the part. Sound a little crazy? Sure. But if being a little crazy for your work is what it takes to be Meryl Streep, a little crazy might just be the way to go!


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