Meryl Streep is always outstanding — but that doesn’t mean that BAFTA and Oscar voters should take her for granted this year.
Meryl Streep probably needs a warehouse for the awards she has won in her near 40 year career, but I feel I need to remind voters that she hasn’t won a BAFTA since 1981 nor an Oscar since 1982.
She is the perennial also-ran: her presence in the nominations shortlist is almost guaranteed because she’s always so damned good but voters assume that she doesn’t need the win because she has won before. She did in fact win two Oscars early in her career, for supporting actress in Kramer Vs Kramer (1979) and for lead actress in Sophie’s Choice (1982). She has won just one BAFTA for The French Lieutenant’s Woman in 1981.
Since 1982 when she won the Oscar, she has been nominated a further 12 times and not won. Since her BAFTA win, she has been nominated nine times and not won.
I would argue that her performances in Silkwood, Out Of Africa, A Cry In The Dark, The Bridges Of Madison County and Julie & Julia were all more than Oscar-worthy, but voters had perhaps decided in each of those years that Streep was well-rewarded enough. Likewise for her iconic turn in The Devil Wears Prada or her richly humorous work in Postcards From The Edge and Adaptation.
This year, she will of course be nominated again for her 17th Oscar and her 14th BAFTA for playing Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady which reunited her with her Mamma Mia! director Phyllida Lloyd.
I don’t have much love for this film and the choices that were made in telling the story of this particular public figure, but Streep, and this is saying something, has never been more brilliant. It’s an inhabitation not a performance: a transformation so persuasive and engaging that for the duration of the film, at least, you forgive the film’s more baffling misjudgements and enjoy her. Even playing a woman so renowned and familiar in our lifetimes, Streep manages to create a character whose human characteristics are more interesting than her historical actions. The performance holds up to scrutiny of every movement of her eye or her hand, every intonation of her voice. Miraculously, despite the actress’ own fame, the heavy prosthetic makeup, the American doing a British accent, you forget it’s Meryl Streep within moments.
So, perhaps it’s time for Meryl Streep to get her third Oscar and her second BAFTA. The woman is a legend, there is no question, but just because she’s always outstanding doesn’t mean she doesn’t deserve acknowledgement for giving – categorically - the best performance of the year.