Exciting thespic surprises from Meryl Streep
Tommy Lee Jones’ period drama, “The Homesman,” was screened in local cinemas last week. The film is a dramatic showcase for Hilary Swank—even better, it boasts a cameo appearance by Meryl Streep, who’s in it to throw her considerable support for her daughter, Grace Gummer, and Jones, with whom she costarred in 2012’s delightful “rom-com for seniors,” “Hope Springs.”
Set in the Midwest in the 1850s, the film follows spinster Mary Bee Cuddy (Swank, in a gutsy portrayal) who, with the help of claim jumper George Briggs (Jones), volunteers to escort three mentally unstable women in a horse-drawn carriage, from Nebraska to a mental facility run by a Methodist church in Iowa—some 450 km away!
No man wants to marry Mary Bee because she’s “too plain and overly bossy.” One of the three women she attends to is portrayed by Streep’s daughter, Grace, the younger sister of Mamie Gummer (“Emily Owens, M.D.”) who made her acting debut in Bille August’s 1993 screen adaptation of Isabel Allende’s “The House of the Spirits” at age 7, playing the younger version of her celebrated mother!
Beautifully photographed and earnestly acted, the movie is significant because it’s a “western”—heretofore a “macho” genre—that boldly examines the role played by independent, headstrong and progressive women in a male-dominated society.
With heart-on-her-sleeve intensity and dramatic grit, Swank effectively “fills” the gaps undermined by the film’s occasional mawkishness and scene-stealing guest stars (John Lithgow, James Spader, Hailee Steinfeld and Tim Blake Nelson).
As a Methodist minister’s wife, Streep does something even more impressive: She manages to subtly but emotively integrate a striking 10-minute cameo appearance into a perfectly calibrated characterization that shows why she is the greatest actress of her generation!
She will also share the screen with daughter Mamie in Jonathan Demme’s “Ricki and the Flash”—as an aging rock chick who gets a chance to put things right when her ex-husband asks
her to help their estranged daughter get through a difficult time!
We’re even more excited to see her play the title role in Stephen Frears’ “Florence Foster Jenkins,” a dark comedy that promises to be a hoot, because it casts Streep as a New York heiress who dreams of becoming an opera singer—despite having a terrible singing voice!
The iconic actress has just earned her 29th Golden Globe nomination—this time, in the Best Supporting Actress category—for her portrayal of the vengeful Witch in Rob Marshall’s screen version of Stephen Sondheim’s “Into The Woods” (showing here on Jan. 28).
She will next share the screen with Helena Bonham Carter and Carey Mulligan in “Suffragette,” where she plays Emmeline Pankhurst, the political activist who helped British women win the right to vote!