Movie Mom

Movie Mom

Meryl’s accents

posted by Nell Minow

Slate has put together a magnificent compilation of some of Meryl Streep’s best accents but what I think of when I watch this is the astonishing range of the performances behind them. It is almost impossible to imagine that it is the same person playing the steely nun, the Holocaust survivor, the Australian mother accused of killing her child, the Danish writer, the barfly. Look at the difference between her portrayals of two women with Irish accents, one Irish, one Irish American. The stunning achievement of her performance as Julia Child is not the accent, or even her ability to appear to add six inches of height, but the way she creates a complete and true character within the larger-than-life and very caricature-able personal characteristics so familiar to so many people. It is a clever trick of writer/director Nora Ephron to include in “Julie & Julia” a clip of Dan Ackroyd’s “Saturday Night Live” parody of Child’s television persona as a compelling contrast to the subtle and endearing character Streep is able to create from the same raw material. Charlie Rose had a marvelous interview with Ephron and Streep about the film, where Ephron said that two of the movie’s best moments, so immediate and effective that both appear in the trailer, were both improvised by Streep. I was also very interested that Streep said she found it liberating when she decided her job was not to re-create the actual historical figure of Julia Child but to portray Child the way she was seen by blogger Julie Powell half a century later. This enabled her to bring in to the portrayal not just Child’s mannerisms but Streep’s own mother’s expansive and generous sense of joy.


  • Mary Keeley

    Just saw “Julie and Julia”. Meryl just never disappoints! I thought the film was great but was really impressed with the portrayal of the Julia and Paul love story. Stanley Tucci is one of my favorite actors (who could forget him and Tony Shaloub in “Big Night”? Great flick about brother love and great Italian cooking and Louis Prima soundtrack–great filck for this Siciliana!) I thought the chemistry between him and Meryl was genuine and so sweet. Amy Adams most certainly will be an actress to watch. I hope she finds as good vehicles in the future. She’s quite versatile as is Streep, but we’ll have to see if she come close to Meryl’s range, right? All in all, good film, made me want to come home and cook–which I did–made a killer seared salmon in garlic and lemon with whole wheat french bread and broccoli–with butter, of course!
    Buon Appetito!

  • Nell Minow

    Thanks, Mary! Wish I could have been there for dinner — it sounds positively Julia-esque. But did you wear pearls in the kitchen?

  • Mary Keeley

    No pearls, just good food, good wine, lovely man at my side.
    It’s all good!

  • Sue B.

    How could Slate forget to include Meryl Streep’s tour de force in the HBO miniseries Angels in America, in which she plays four characters, including an elderly male rabbi with a pronounced Yiddish accent? She won a Golden Globe, a SAG award, and an Emmy in 2004 as outstanding lead actress in a miniseries for those roles.

  • Nell Minow

    Thanks, Sue B! That was indeed stunning. A great addition to the list.

  • Your Name

    I thought Ms. Streep’s accent in “Prime” (I think it was called?) was incredible. not the least because it was so subtle. No offense, but Julia Child had a very distinct accent… so is the Irish accent and the Australian, and they are easier to mimic. But the LAYERS of accents — such as that of the New York Jewish psycologist which hinted at a woman raised by Eastern European imigrants — implied an entire biography.
    We are indeed blessed to have Meryl Streep making movies.

  • Nell Minow

    Abby, you are right! I loved her performance in that movie. And she does a distinctly different NY accent in “Heartburn,” telling a whole different story about the character’s background and outlook. Thanks for a great comment.

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