I'm not going to go completely after Daniel D’Addario, I'm just going to refute one thing.
The rap on Streep has been the same since the beginning of her career, or at least since she won the best-actress Oscar for Sophie’s Choice: she’s an accent machine, without the ability to create empathy from her audience. While this is arguably true, the accents aren’t the issue. What Streep most crucially lacks is the notion of underplaying. The outsized quality of Julia Child speaks exactly to Streep’s weaknesses among moviegoers not predisposed to like her. She plays every role to the absolute hilt, even when she hasn’t, it seems, decided what role she’s playing. Consider Doubt. The part called for subtle shadings of emotion as the nun protagonist began to question whether the priest she accused of sexual misconduct was actually innocent. Streep simply put on a broad Bronx accent and went careening towards a final scene where she weeps and shouts to the heavens. In contrast, watch her rage in Woody Allen’s Manhattan, or her delicate pain in the accent bonanza of Sophie’s Choice. Streep is more subtly emotional in those than she’s been in decades.In my lifetime as a moviegoer, Streep seems to have chosen one trait to build each of her characters, and dragged the film along behind her. What can a moviegoer who has only seen her warbling in Mamma Mia!, snarking in he Devil Wears Prada, and doing whatever she was trying to do in Doubt make of her sterling reputation?
Now, I want you to watch at least three and a half minutes of this video, of Streep in the film Doubt:
What planet do you live on, sir?
That's the most difficult of roles, the most complicated of scenes, and the greatest challenge an actor can ever be faced with. In heavy, transformative makeup and costume, in a period piece, while walking outside, and with a terrific actress right there with her, Miss Viola Davis in a part that was woefully overlooked and underappreciated in and of itself, Streep does amazing work. At no point does she do anything to take away from what Miss Davis is doing, and at no point does Miss Davis do anything to betray the scene or take away from what Streep is doing. There's more going on in that three minutes than I think anyone realizes, and that just doesn't happen.
That's not even the best work in the damned film, of course, but it neatly refutes what the critic is saying, doesn't it?
Streep plays the scene with conflict, but also with studied restraint. She does nothing easy in the scene. She is, in the emotion of the scene, dealing with child molestation, and is reaching out to a stranger, across all of the pitfalls of religion, race, guilt, duty, and what's right and wrong, and Streep absolutely becomes this woman without a single misstep. Where'd that accent go? It disappears because Streep is carrying the scene without the need for tricks or mannerisms.
What no one really understands is that, if anything about that scene is not paced, presented, or delivered in perfect tone, the whole movie falls apart. The character Streep plays has to be absolutely pitch perfect or her credibility collapses. Without her moral authority and credibility, the film becomes a screwball comedy about a priest abusing children. You cannot understate how difficult it is to carry out that level of work. Oh, sure. Not every role is like this one. Not every actress could pull off what you see Streep do in the scene above. The ones that can are legendary. You can count them on one hand.
There's no bombast, no focus on the accent, and absolutely no focus on "herself."This is pure gut-wrenching emotion, and none of what you see above is overstated or phoned in. Tucked in beneath that bonnet is a brilliant, brilliant actress. It's so far above my pay grade to even try to explain it, but she's the best of her generation. What she tosses off in a week as her regular paying gig is at a level of mastery that sails over the head of commoners like myself. Enjoy it and appreciate it, sir. You're not supposed to get how she can do that and not be dented by your nonsense.
I'd give up the film criticism. Gawker always needs more snark. Go see if you can help them.