I liked Meryl Streep better before I read Michael Schulman’s biography – Her Again: Becoming Meryl Streep. But then she delivered her hilarious impersonation of Donald Trump at the annual Shakespeare in the Park Public Theater Gala in New York City, and she is back as one of my favorites.
Schulman paints Streep as the actor doing her job, working hard at her craft, and he is clearly enamored of the Oscar star as he ticks off her talents and aptitudes; he slogs through anyone who has ever had a connection to Meryl Streep, with impressive name-dropping – Christopher Lloyd, John Lithgow, Robert De Niro, Joe Papp. Streep purposefully adapted herself to being what was expected, from the ditzy popular cheerleader, faking her way through high school with a tinkling laugh she had practiced or monopolizing all the leading roles at Yale graduate school, overshadowing her classmates, including Wendy Wasserstein and Sigourney Weaver.
One name, however, reaffirms her humanity and offers a glimpse into the real woman. Famous for his role as Fredo Carleone in the Godfather and his swan song in The Deerhunter, the late John Cazale was the love of her life. Surprisingly, she married Don Gummer six months after Cazale’s death.
The book ends with Streep winning her first Oscar for Kramer vs. Kramer. Although Schulman includes twenty-four pages of reference notes, Streep herself did not participate – Schulman thanks her in the Acknowledgments for “not throwing up any significant roadblocks.” Who she is when she is not performing is kept private, the way Streep wants it. To be fair, biographies are not easy to write – especially when the person is still alive. Let me show my bias when I say the only biography I ever really liked was Stacy Schiff’s Cleopatra.
Initially, Meryl Streep was a stage actress, honing her craft in Joseph Papp productions in Shakespeare in the Park, so her recent humorous portrayal of Donald Trump was in a familiar venue. The New York Times said Streep’s Trump was “more than credible … down to the pursed lips and low-hanging belly…She got the braggadocio-inflected voice, too, even while singing.”
It’s worth looking for on you-tube.
Related Review: Cleopatra: A Life