WCW: Meryl Streep

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Meryl Streep! The greatest actress of her generation! Beautiful! Immensely talented! Fiery and full of conviction! And thank you, Meryl, for reminding us that women can not plastic-surgery themselves as they age (with full understanding that she only gets away with it because of her immense stature in the film industry).

I went through a huge Streep craze in my early 20s and tracked down a number of her films, although looking at this list I realize that my favorite of her performances (Silkwood, 1983) is a modern piece — although Plenty is a close second. She’s done more “historical” films than “costume,” but she’s done a ton, so let’s take a look!

Note: she was also in Evening (2007) and The Hours (2002), but she was in the contemporary/modern scenes, so I didn’t include those here.

 

Julia (1977)

A playwright tries to smuggle money into Nazi Germany.

Julia (1977)

That’s a lot of gingham!

 

Secret Service (1977)

Something about Civil War spies. She was in the Broadway play (pictured below) which was then shown on TV.

Secret Service (1977) Secret Service (1977)

 

Holocaust (1978)

A Jewish family struggle to survive. I’d really like to see this, as it’s a topic I’m very interested in. What I find fascinating is that apparently there wasn’t much cultural discussion of the Holocaust in Germany before this TV miniseries aired there, but it sparked a real consciousness.

Holocaust (1978) Holocaust (1978)

 

The French Lieutenant’s Woman (1981)

One of those film-within-a-films, where Streep and Jeremy Irons play actors who are making an historical film. I remember that the historical stuff was interesting (Streep is an Englishwoman in mid-Victorian England who is shunned by her community for falling in love with a Frenchman), the modern actors not so much. But hey, we get Streep as a redhead!

The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981) The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981)

 

Sophie’s Choice (1982)

This film was a mixed bag for me, as I was more interested in Sophie’s experiences during the Holocaust than her post-war emotional pain, and because I had already been spoiled on the key plot point… but it’s probably one of Streep’s best roles!

Sophie's Choice (1982) Sophie's Choice (1982)

 

Edited to add: Out of Africa (1985)

Dear god, how could I forget this masterpiece? Well, I can tell you how, but it’s boring and has to do with image hosting on our site. I can’t stand letting this post continue to exist without adding some images of its gorgeousness, and pointing you to posts about the wedding suit and the costume designer.

Out of Africa (1985) Out of Africa (1985) Out of Africa (1985)

Plenty (1985)

True story: I was waaaaay too young to see this when it came out, but my best friend’s mom took us. I remember deciding it was my favorite movie because it seemed Really Important, but I TOTALLY didn’t get it. Rewatching it as an adult, yeah, it’s pretty frickin’ amazing in a sober, depressing sort of way. Streep plays an Englishwoman who works for the French resistance during World War II, but the rest of her life will never live up to the excitement of that period.

Plenty (1985) Plenty (1985)

 

Ironweed (1987)

Streep and Jack Nicholson as Depression-era winos. Sounds like fork-in-the-eye time to me!

Ironweed (1987)

 

The House of the Spirits (1993)

Here’s a GREAT idea: take a hugely popular book by a South American novelist, about South American characters (a rancher and his clairvoyant wife, I think set in the early 20th century but I’m not positive), and cast a bunch of white Americans in the lead roles. Yeah, there’s a reason we’ve never seen it.

The House of the Spirits (1993) The House of the Spirits (1993) The House of the Spirits (1993)

 

The Bridges of Madison County (1995)

A photographer connects with a lonely housewife. Set in the 1960s. YOU COULDN’T PAY ME TO WATCH THIS. (Okay, you could pay me.)

The Bridges of Madison County (1995)

 

Dancing at Lughnasa (1998)

Based on a play — a bunch of sisters living in rural Ireland in the 1930s. Never seen it. Every theater festival I’ve ever been to includes this play. Haven’t seen the play either.

Dancing at Lughnasa (1998)

 

A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004)

Technically fantasy, but Streep’s 1890s-inspired gowns — designed by Colleen Atwood — are stunning even if the rest of the film tries too hard.

A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004) A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004)

 

Julie & Julia (2009)

A modern-day cooking blogger’s journey is intertwined with Julia Child’s life story. I’d like to see it? I guess? Seems like something I’d watch with my mom.

Julie & Julia (2009) Julie & Julia (2009)

 

The Homesman (2014)

Pioneer women who have become mentally-ill need to be transported by Tommy Lee Jones and Hilary Swank. Looks butterchurny to me.

The Homesman (2014)

 

Into the Woods (2014)

Technically fantasy, but historically-inspired costumes by Colleen Atwood, and Trystan let me get away with reviewing it. Streep plays a witch who has issues.

Into the Woods (2014)

 

Suffragette (2015)

Streep has a small part as famed women’s suffrage activist Emmeline Pankhurst in this maybe-too-serious film.

Suffragette (2015)

 

Florence Foster Jenkins (2016)

As a legendarily bad opera singer in the 1930s.

Florence Foster Jenkins (2016)

 

Coming up: Mary Poppins Returns, as Topsy, in 2018.

 

 

What’s your favorite Meryl Streep film, historical or modern-set?

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About the author

Kendra

Website

Kendra has been a fixture in the online costuming world since the late 1990s. Her website, Démodé Couture, is one of the most well-known online resources for historical costumers. In the summer of 2014, she published a book on 18th-century wig and hair styling. Kendra is a librarian at a university, specializing in history and fashion. She’s also an academic, with several articles on fashion history published in research journals.

20 Responses

  1. Kathleen MacKenzie

    Where’s Out of Africa? My entire sense is style for high school was based on this movie. The good old days when Banana Republic actually sold clothing you could take on a safari, you could get Victorian blouses with ruffles from Pier 1 and Outback Red, your 8″ hatpin wasn’t considered a weapon and they let you wear a birimmed hat with it.

    Reply
  2. Susan Pola Staples

    Meryl Streep brings a nuance to her roles that is frankly compelling. From her research on her character to any dialect lessons which she nails makes her, perhaps, my favourite actress – or at least my favourite top four.
    Her down to earthiness – she rocks the red carpet in glasses – is commendable in an era of too much plastic surgery.
    My favourite Meryl movies are Out of Africa, Julie and Julia, French Lieutenant’s Woman – Pre-Raphaelite and redhead (I’m a redhead, too).
    But I love all her films.

    Reply
  3. Frannie Germeshausen

    Julie and Julia is a delight. She is the Julia Child of a home cook’s dream – the friend who sits on your shoulder and whispers words of encouragement when you try something really hard.

    Reply
    • GinaP

      I agree Frannie! MS is brilliant as Julia Child and this is my favorite Nora Ephron movie, although, I could missed the Julie parts. Kendra you must see it. I own the DVD if you want to borrow it.

      Reply
  4. Linda Merrill

    I think Holocaust was the first time I saw her and it was only later (maybe when she did Kramer vs. Kramer) when I though – oh, that’s that actress! She’s always been very memorable even though she’s not a scene stealer. Her looks are pretty other-wordly which makes her perfect for period pieces. It’s also why she’s aged so beautifully – great bone structure goes a long way! Bridges of Madison Country the movie is that rare thing – a movie that is much, much better than the book. Great music too.

    Reply
    • Kristine

      This is fantastic! Thank you for sharing. I’ve always wished they had just done a Julia Child biopic instead. The woman deserves her own dang movie, and Streep was brilliant in the role.

      Reply
    • SarahV

      It’s referred to a few times, but the story (her part of it anyway), opens on her in Post-War Paris, as a bored housewife while her husband Paul does mysterious State Department things.

      Reply
  5. SarahV

    Aww, The Bridges of Madison County is actually rather sweet. Just a small, intimate story.

    Reply
  6. Christine Palmer

    Can’t believe you forgot Streep in 1978’s The Deer Hunter. The 1960s wedding portrayed in that film is period authentic with costumes, music, film set, and western Pennsylvania culture. It was one of her earliest triumphs.

    Reply

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