I’ve been watching stunned and stupefied for weeks as Gunboat Meryl has out-pointed, out-performed and out-maneuvered Carey Mulligan in the Best Actress spin game. If quality and depth of performance were the sole criteria, Mulligan — hello? — would be the locked-down winner like badass Mo’Nique and Christoph Waltz. But people are moved by other considerations.
Mulligan’s Jenny in An Education is fresh, vulnerable, vibrant, womanly, alive. Streep’s Julia Child in Julie & Julia is an impersonation bit — a smart dodo-bird performance that’s almost like a wind-up doll routine, maybe two cuts above Dan Aykroyd‘s Child on SNL but not three.
And yet Meryl seems to have the favoring headwind because she’s familiar and beloved, and because of the idea that Mulligan is too young and not funny or charismatic enough in interviews, and — here’s the real mind-blower — because people who should know better have bought into the notion that poor Meryl is “overdue” because she hasn’t won a Best Actress Oscar since her Sophie’s Choice triumph in 1983, which came four years after her Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Kramer vs. Kramer. This line is actually working! I’m on the floor about this.
Streep has been worshipped and pedestaled for decades, and I understand that people feel it’s only right and fair that she should be handed another Oscar because it’s been 26 years, but her Julie & Julia performance is not the one to get all excited about. It’s a charming but minor little impersonation trick in a not very good film. Unlike her performance in last year’s Doubt, which I thought was wonderful — that black bonnet and harpy voice were transporting, and those granny glasses! I would watch that film again just for the acidic, half-humorous edge Streep gave to her lines. I half-chuckled all through that film. She’s so effin’ brilliant.
But please — the fact that Meryl Streep hasn’t won an Oscar for two and a half decades is of no consequence to anything or anybody. It’s meaningless. Has she not been living a mostly wonderful life all this time and getting rich in the bargain? Which reminds me — doesn’t it seem fair that she should be punished for Mamma Mia? She made a fortune off that film and look what it did to people, to our culture, to the tradition of movie musicals. As far as I’m concerned (and I think I’m being very gracious in saying this) I think Streep should be on awards probation for five years because of that film. Until 2013, I mean. Unless she pulls off another Doubt-level performance.
I’m not writing this because I feel it’s desperately important that Carey Mulligan wins the Best Actress Oscar. She’s had a wonderful year and is doing magnificently. All the praise and attention will keep her aloft for years to come. I recognize that her award-season problem has been that she’s too low-key and sincere, and that she’s not pizazzy enough on the red carpet. It nonetheless makes me sick to hear this kind of thing because she gave the female performance of the year, and because there aren’t enough people who seem guided by this simple fact.
But you know the nip-nippies are out in force when you read what Tom O’Neil said yesterday about her acceptance speech at the National Board of Review award ceremony the other night, to wit: “If the NBR gave out an award for…the most shallow acceptance speech, it would certainly go to Mulligan. Mulligan fans better hope she doesn’t win the Globe this weekend and stage this snoozefest at that podium too. If she pulls this on national TV, she’ll lose all hope of winning the Oscar.”
See what I mean? Mulligan hasn’t quite dazzled the press or done the dance in the right way. Where as Streep, an old hand at this, has. It’s really not right or fair. and it actually feels a little icky. Then again, if Mulligan listens and hires a writer to punch up her act, she might do herself some good.