The Devil Wears Prada, an oral history

Thursday, 30 June, 2016

Where were you ten years ago, because that’s how long it’s been since The Devil Wears Prada, directed by David Frankel, was released. To mark the occasion, the three leads, Meryl Streep, Anne Hathaway, and Emily Blunt, have contributed to an oral history on the making of the film.

Blunt arguably got the biggest career boost out of the project. “It was a night and day change,” says Blunt, who was living in Los Angeles after the film wrapped. She used to visit the same coffee shop in the morning. “The day the movie came out,” Blunt says, “all the people in the bakery suddenly knew who I was. It was surreal.” Hathaway could tell that her new pal was destined for Hollywood greatness. “I’ve never witnessed a star being born before,” Hathaway says. “That’s the first time I watched it happen.”

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Ricki and The Flash

Tuesday, 15 September, 2015

2 and a half stars

San Fernando Valley based guitarist, and leader of covers band, The Flash, Ricki Rendazzo (Meryl Streep), once known as Linda Brummel, was determined to pursue her dream to become a rock star, whatever the cost. Accordingly, she had no qualms in leaving her husband, Peter (Kevin Kline), and young children decades earlier, to go in search of a spot in the limelight.

Ricki and The Flash scene

Instead of playing sold out stadiums though, she finds herself performing at neighbourhood bars, and bagging groceries at a supermarket, so as to keep a roof over her head, while thoughts of the family she abandoned unsettle her, in Ricki and The Flash, trailer, the latest feature of Jonathan Demme (“The Silence of the Lambs”, “Rachel Getting Married”).

When Ricki learns her daughter, Julie (Mamie Gummer), has attempted suicide, following the breakdown of her marriage, she flies back to the family in Indianapolis. It is not an easy homecoming though. Julie is resentful of her presence, while Maureen (Audra McDonald), who Peter later married, thinks Ricki can only make matters worse, not better.

Ricki and The Flash scene

For all the merit that the premise of the story has though, what audiences are meant to make of what happens next is not clear. Is Ricki’s return as the ageing rock rebel to the conservative Midwest town, meant to shock and outrage? Is Ricki, against the odds, and the anger of those she walked out on years ago, going to win the day, and console the troubled?

The answer to both questions appear to be “sort of, but who knows”. In the end “Ricki and The Flash” bites off more than it can chew. There are too many issues the fractured family has to deal with, something that seems to dawn on Demme well into the third reel, and sets up a finale that while papering over the cracks, is neither convincing nor satisfying.

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August: Osage County

Wednesday, 11 December, 2013

3 stars
August: Osage County still

Directed by John Wells (“The Company Men”), and based on the play of the same name written by US playwright Tracy Letts, August: Osage County, trailer, depicts the uneasy reunion of the dysfunctional Weston family, as they gather in their Oklahoma hometown, following the disappearance of patriarch, Beverly (Sam Shepard).

While sisters Barbara (Julia Roberts), Karen (Juliette Lewis), and Ivy (Julianne Nicholson), are initially happy to see each other, and to a lesser extent, their abrasive mother Violet (Meryl Streep), deep seated tensions quickly surface, and mother and daughters, who all have their own issues, are soon sparring with each other.

No family is perfect, every family has its problems, some just more so than others, and that’s the message “August: Osage County” will spend two hours hammering out, relentlessly at times. Little can ease the pain of this often bleak experience, sadly not even some sharp acting from this stellar ensemble cast. Misery loves family indeed.

“August: Osage County” opens in Australian cinemas on 1 January, 2014.

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Hope Springs

Wednesday, 22 August, 2012

3 stars

Restoring the long lost zest to a marriage may be a challenge few couples, who have been together over 30 years, think they are up to, but sixty-something Kay (Meryl Streep), feels she is equal to the task in Hope Springs (trailer), the latest feature of US filmmaker David Frankel (“The Devil Wears Prada”, “Marley & Me”).

Although outwardly happy, life with husband Arnold (Tommy Lee Jones) has become decidedly tedious since their adult children left home, something that has seen the couple settle into a routine that Kay is now beginning to find stifling. That they took to sleeping in separate rooms at some past point is also little helping matters.

After stumbling upon a book written by Dr. Bernie Feld (Steve Carell), a marriage counsellor, Kay books herself and Arnold onto one of Bernie’s intensive week long counselling programs. While Arnold feels such a course of action is plainly unnecessary, not to mention a waste of money, he reluctantly agrees to participate.

Hope Springs still

After reaching his office in Maine, Bernie challenges the couple to step out of their deeply entrenched comfort zones through open discussion, some frank questioning, and by setting them an intimate exercise each day. But each time it looks as if Kay and Arnold are beginning to make progress, they seem to suffer a setback of some sort.

“Hope Springs” will not be the fastest moving film you’ll see this year, nor will it be one of the more unpredictable. Through the performances of its three leads though, it takes a clever approach to the problems of intimacy and desire as couples age, even if that means casting Carell in one his most subdued roles of recent times.

And while it seemed to me that the sharpest lines were shared among the supporting cast, Streep nonetheless shines as the doting wife intent on recapturing the couple’s glory days without upsetting the apple cart, while Jones is equally convincing as the resentful and defensive Arnold, who has long since become a creature of habit.

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The Iron Lady

Friday, 23 December, 2011

3 and a half stars

The premise

The Iron Lady (trailer), a drama biography, is the latest feature of British film director Phyllida Lloyd (“Mamma Mia!”, “Macbeth”), and depicts the life of British politician Margaret Thatcher (Meryl Streep), who during a 32 year parliamentary career, became both the first woman leader of the Conservative Party, and then Prime Minister.

After studying law at university, Thatcher was elected to the British parliament in 1959. In 1975 she assumed leadership of the Conservative leader, becoming Prime Minister when the party was returned to power in 1979. It was a post Thatcher held for eleven and a half years, making her the country’s longest serving leader of the twentieth century.

The play

Almost twenty years have passed since Thatcher left parliament, and the sight of the world’s once most powerful woman hobbling along the local high street is a sombre one. Having given police minders at her London apartment the slip to do some grocery shopping, she is pushed and shoved aside by passersby, oblivious to who she is.

Returning from her errand, she sets about preparing breakfast for herself and husband Dennis (Jim Broadbent), who simultaneously attempts to mock and amuse her. The jovial breakfast banter with Dennis however is all a figment of the former Prime Minister’s troubled mind, Dennis has been dead for over seven years.

While recalling her first meeting with Dennis in 1951, her later entry to parliament, and eventual ascent to the leadership, her thoughts are laced with regret and heartache. At what cost were her ambitions, and overcoming a male dominated, at times misogynist, party and parliament achieved, and of what value is that to her now?

At other times though it’s as if nothing has changed, and in her mind at least, she still spars with militant unions and the Cold War regime of the Soviet Union. It is left to daughter Carol (Olivia Colman) to remind her ailing mother that she is no longer Prime Minister, Dennis is gone, and that her eldest son Mark now lives in South Africa.

The wrap

Early publicity created the impression “The Iron Lady” is a Margaret Thatcher biopic, but that’s misleading. While there are still plenty of glimpses into the public life of one of the twentieth century’s most prominent figures, the story here is far more private, one of sorrow and regret, as Thatcher recalls the choices she made to achieve her ambitions.

The best thing going for “The Iron Lady” is Meryl Streep’s, flawless, impeccable, portrayal of Thatcher. To the detriment of the narrative though is the depiction of her grief and despair at Dennis’ death and alienation from her children, which while poignant, is overwhelming. Still that opening scene is one of the most striking I’ve seen in a film in a long time.

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Meryl Streep to portray Margaret Thatcher, the Iron Lady

Thursday, 10 February, 2011

Meryl Streep has been cast as former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in the upcoming biopic of the Iron Lady’s life and times.

Streep has welcomed the challenge of playing Britain’s first female prime minister. “The prospect of exploring the swathe cut through history by this remarkable woman is a daunting and exciting challenge,” she said. “I am trying to approach the role with as much zeal, fervour and attention to detail as the real Lady Thatcher possesses – I can only hope my stamina will begin to approach her own!”

Jim Broadbent, of Another Year fame, will play the role of Thatcher’s husband, Denis.

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Julie & Julia

Friday, 16 October, 2009

4 stars

Set in 2002, Julie and Julia harks back to a time when the blogosphere still seemed like the wild west (some crazy stuff on that internet thing), and blogs were something someone else wrote.

Still there was – even in those times – gold in them thar hills as Julie Powell (Amy Adams) discovered when she set out to cook every recipe in “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”, written by her idol US chef Julia Child (Meryl Streep), and blog about the experience.

As with any blogging venture it took her awhile to gain a following (too bad there were no internet marketers back in 2002) but this is what gives – aside from the food – Julie and Julia much of its interest, a movie based on a blog, the same blog that now makes occasional references to the movie (spoilers).

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Meryl Streep will make your sales and revenue jump jump

Thursday, 20 August, 2009

Not only have many of Meryl Streep’s films had a good run at the box-office, they have also provided a marketing boost for the locations, fashions, or music, that are part of the production.

After the star uncharacteristically sang and danced – in dungarees, what’s more – in last year’s Abba musical Mamma Mia!, the highest-grossing British film ever, not only did the Swedish group’s Gold collection top the album charts, there was also a surge in demand from couples who wanted to marry on the Greek island of Skopelos, as in the film, with easyJet reporting flights up 13 per cent in the months after the film’s release.

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Friday, 23 January, 2009

4 stars

Catholic schools in the 1960’s, and earlier I presume, were austere, solemn, and strict environments. It was also a time when the church clergy commanded an unchallenged respect, and a certain fear, from the community.

A Catholic middle school is the backdrop for Doubt, and an intriguing my-word-against-your-word standoff between school principal Sister Aloysius Beauvier (Meryl Streep) and the parish priest Father Brendan Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman).

Doubt is aptly titled, for just when there appears to be clarity, uncertainty once more prevails.

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The Devil Wears Prada

Thursday, 7 August, 2008

4.5 stars

An oldie but a goodie. An “entertaining” DVD was requested for last weekend, so I obliged by hiring 2006 fashion flick, The Devil Wears Prada.

I took some time out on Tuesday night (since it’s here for a week) to listen to the commentary that director David Frankel and the producers made. It’s something I highly recommend, listening to the production crew talk about the making of a movie.

It seems Meryl Streep behaved like Miranda Priestly, the Runway magazine editor-in-chief whom she portrayed, with the producers admitting they were “scared” of her, and often reluctant to ask too much of her.

There were also some interesting insights into the actual filming process.

One scene towards the end of the story, apparently playing out on a street in Paris, was partially shot in New York. Camera angles and close ups made it virtually impossible to tell the difference though.

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