The star of Netflix’s The Prom seems to be constantly working and she’s got this uncanny ability to summon prestigious awards and accolades her way like some kind of magnetic force. Her achievements stand on their own yet there is still this lingering sense of cynicism that hovers around her acting – some kind of exasperation regarding her work, where some commentators seem almost exhausted to talk about her. It might be ridiculous to say out loud but Meryl Streep has become one of the most underrated actresses in Hollywood. How the heck did that happen? – well, your guess is as good as mine, but we’ve done our best to come up with a couple of theories, so make sure you stick around to see what we’ve come up with.
Streep’s Unbelievable Net Worth
When you’re as insanely prosperous as Meryl is you’re always going to have a few enemies. People love to marginalize those that they think are overrated. Maybe it has to do with the fact that she’s received 21 Academy Awards nominations – of which she’s won three – and 33 Golden Globe nods, winning nine. Or maybe it has something to do with the fact that she is absolutely loaded!
Meryl is one of the highest-paid actresses in Hollywood. Recent estimates put her net worth as somewhere upwards of $160 million dollars – and while she’s made some of that loot with smart real estate investments and celebrity endorsements, the majority of that bank comes directly from her work as a film and television actress.
In fact, Streep is rumored to make between $10 and $20 million per film. Seeing as her films have grossed nearly $3 billion globally, her acting ability is in high demand by directors and producers trying to draw in audiences. So yeah, some of her detractors are probably just jealous – that only seems natural, but is that really all it is?
Haters Gonna Hate
When Streep picked up her third Oscar back in 2012 she was reportedly pretty self-deprecating about the honor.
“I had this feeling” she quipped, “Like I could hear half of America going ‘OH No!” Oh, come on, Why? Her? Again?”
Her comments, as comical as they might seem, were grounded in some kind of truth. Streep seems to be the go-to actress to shower with perennial praise award season after award season. Here she was once again winning yet another Academy Award – to no one’s surprise of course.
Streep’s joke alluded to a psychological phenomenon that she’s even come up with a name for. “Meryl Streep fatigue’, has been plaguing the actress for quite some time now. Even though she continues to deliver top-notch performances time and time again, as she recently has shown us in Steven Soderbergh’s Let Them All Talk and Netflix’s The Porm, there is this kind of unspoken response from critics and audiences alike that look at her perpetually brilliant performances with a feeling of ‘so what’. At a certain point when people keep hearing her name over and over, they start tuning it out.
Her greatness is now apparently just something that can be expected, treated like some kind of inevitability. People are so desensitized to her persistently remarkable acting that now it almost comes across as mundane, routine even. ‘Oh wow! Meryl won another award! Oh, she’s outshining everyone else again!” Cue eye-roll.
This kind of sentiment has gotten so bad that it seems like the only time Streep’s acting gets talked about these days is when someone is expressing some kind of cynicism about it. Granted maybe that’s just a reflection of where society is at these days. Seems like nihilistic cynicism is the flavor of the week. Whenever somebody is successful, the most logical thing to do apparently is drag them down. Haters gonna hate and all that jazz, but is that really where we should be? Even if someone seems to always be the recipient of praise, doesn’t that imply at least in some way, shape, or form that they deserve it?
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Maybe There’s Something To It
Back in November, The New York Times published their list of the 25 greatest actors of the 21st century. And of course, all of the expected names rose to the top of that list. You got Denzel Washington, Isabelle Harper, and Daniel Day-Lewis scoring the top three positions and then there was the little curve-ball of Keanu Reeves snagging the number 4 position, Really? Keanu?
Anyways, that list sparked a wave of mild outrage, at least in certain circles. Weeks after the New York Times published their controversial article they posted a follow-up piece answering some of the most common questions that readers had about how they compiled their list.
They addressed the Streep controversy by pointing out that she has indeed given quite a few stellar performances in the last two decades but they candidly noted that she’s also given some less-than-impressive ones that were ‘showy and overdone’, as they put it. According to them, she has more of a mixed record than many of her fans would care to admit.
For every Little Women or The Post, two recent films that Streep delivered notably impressive performances in, there have been duds like 2013s August: Osage County or 2007s Evening – two films where Streep relied heavily on wardrobe, make-up, and props to do most of the leg work. Streep in fact has quite a few of these kind of lackluster performances under her belt that people like to sweep under the table, but when you’re an uber-celebrity like Meryl is, you’re failings aren’t easily buried under your successes. Quite the opposite in fact. For Streep, they are significant, meaningful and indicators that maybe – just maybe – she was never that good to begin with. Could it be true?
Really though, this kind of dismissive approach is nothing new. Streep has been brushed aside by her detractors for decades now. Even back in the seventies when reviews of her films were gushing with praise and her theater performances were being heralded as some of the best, if not the best of her generation, she still had those that weren’t convinced of her prowess. Notably, Pauline Kael famed film critic of The New Yorker, made it very clear that she disliked Streep’s acting. Meanwhile, the rest of the world seemed to be head-over-heels for Meryl’s foles in films like Kramer vs Kramer and Sophie’s Choice.
Kael wasn’t afraid to speak her mind – regardless of how unpopular of an opinion hers was at the time, but perhaps that just meant she was ahead of her time. Of her performance in Kramer vs Kramer, Kael labeled Streep’s delivery as ‘glacial’ and further disparaged her by saying that he technique didn’t add up to anything significant.
Kale hypothesized that Meryl puts too much energy and attention into one aspect of her character. By bringing an ‘unwarranted intensity to one facet’, as she put it, she was in effect decorporealising herself. According to her, none of her roles ever feel like full characters – which is precisely why she finds her performances as being so unrewarding.
Kael’s opinion that Streep’s performances are all technique and no soul have struck a chord with critics. To be fair, you’re likely to find more idolizing fans than condemnatory dissenting voices when it comes to Streep’s works, but some critics are pretty outspoken about their disdain and disillusionment towards the actress.
“Barrel Of Tics And Technique”
That’s exactly how some of Streep’s harshest critics have described her acting style. If you close your eyes right now, you just might be able to picture some of Streep’s most famous gestures – clutching at her face with her fingertips at her mouth, her eye’s darting about, that closed smug smile – all of these techniques have been defined as being uniquely Streepian for many decades now.
What that means is that Streep’s performances are rarely ever fluid or free-wheeling. They tend to be more calculated and controlled than organic. Every aspect of her delivery is crafted and rehearsed. For films like August: Osage Country, this approach becomes uncomfortably overpowering. The independent described the performances in that movie as being something akin to a bag of cats fighting for air – and by all accounts, we think that they hit the nail right on its head when it came to that particular film.
For other films, that method of rigidity has worked out perfectly fine for her. When she played fashion magazine mogul Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada her superbly precise delivery complete with its immaculate physical and verbal timing was one of the stand-out features of the film.
Streep always comes across as being deep in thought. Her next move, flinch, glance, or display of emotion are precisely choreographed in her mind before she executes them. No one could ever call her subtle. She’d much sooner cycle through seven facial expressions before she would settle on just one but she’s also not interested In being too broad in her delivery unless a particular roll insists upon it.
Streep’s power lies in her gestures and the totally unique way that she delivers a line of dialogue. It’s an approach that is seldom emulated by her contemporaries but it is uniquely her own – and she’s absolutely wonderful at doing what she does.
So sure, her career isn’t entirely composed of glowing high-points. She’s certainly had her fair share of flops and valleys but at the end of the day, she keeps pushing on and making her presence known. The majority of her performances remain stellar.
There is one thing that you can expect as time goes on. As long as Meryl Streep continues to add shiny awards and trophy’s to her cabinet, she’s going to continue to have haters who think that she’s over-rated. That’s honestly just human nature.
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Anyways, we’d love to hear from you. What’s your favorite Meryl Streep movie, Kramer vs Kramer, The Devil Wears Prada, Sophie’s Choice? Let us know by dropping your opinion in the comments section below.