Oscar is quite fond of honoring Meryl Streep, lavishing her with a record 21 acting nominations and three wins over the years. But the Golden Globes are positively gaga about inviting the lady who is considered by many as the greatest actress of her generation to attend their fancy soiree of a ceremony as often as possible. The members of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association has bestowed 31 nominations upon her, eight of which translated into wins. She also was honored with the organization’s honorary Cecil B. DeMille Award in 2017.
One reason La Streep’s nom count is higher for the Globes than the Academy Awards? The group has also honored her TV work over the years along with her films. This year, she has supporting roles in two feature films, as a widow on vacation who gets entangled in a off-shore tax evasion scam in Netflix’s “The Laundromat” and as fussy Aunt March, who bonds with sister Amy in “Little Women.” At the moment on Gold Derby’s combined Golden Globe film odds, Streep is ranked at No. 15 for Steven Soderbergh‘s streaming movie and No. 11 for Greta Gerwig‘s second swing as a solo director.
But over in the combined Golden Globes odds for TV, Streep is perched at the tippy-top of the list of supporting TV actresses for her tailor-made role as a meddlesome matriarch who causes trouble for the Monterey Five on the second season of HBO’s “Big Little Lies.” She has been recognized for her TV work twice before, competing as a lead for the 1997 ABC movie “First Do No Harm” and winning Best Actress in a miniseries or TV film for her four roles in the 2003 HBO adaptation of “Angels in America.”
While the first season of “Big Little Lies” was driven by the multi-generational performances of Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, Laura Dern, Shailene Woodley and Zoe Kravitz, the presence of Streep was the primary reason that viewers kept tuning in each week just to witness what bit of meme-worthy acting business her Mary Louise (the Streep’s actual given name) would sink her rodent-y fake teeth into each episode.
Ostensibly there to help out grieving daughter-in-law Celeste (Kidman) with her twin grandsons after the not-so-accidental stair-related death of her abusive son Perry, this shady granny just assumes the five women are all guilty while her rapist son, who was prone to ugly fits of domestic violence, was the victim.
It was a rare chance to witness Streep transform into a wicked passive-agressive maternal villain, one who can sense an opponent’s emotional weak spot and ably poke at it. Consider when she first meets Witherspoon’s petite control-freak Madeline, a mother of two girls, Mary Louise announces, “I find little people to be untrustworthy.” She then doubles down on her needling: “You seem like a nice person. Loving. But you also strike me as a ‘wanter.’ “
She continues: “There are people in life who content themselves with what they have, and there are others who just …. want! Oh, you don’t have to take it personally. I’m a ‘wanter, myself.” On top of that observation, Mary Louise at one point oddly drags her cross necklace across her chin as if warding off evil spirits.
But the moment that just might seal the deal on a ninth Golden Globe win (and perhaps an Emmy next year) is that dinner-table scream (watch video above) on the second season premiere that probably rattled plenty of satellite dishes on rooftops. When one of her twin grandsons say they miss their dead father, Mary Louise shares a story that ends in a primal roar of grief.
“The other day I was with some friends and their sons were not a patch on your dad, not a patch,” she says. “I felt so angry that their mediocre secondary pudgy balding middle-management sons were still alive and my Perry, my Perry … I just wanted to scream. So you know I did? I did scream. Wanna hear?”
She lets loose with an ear-piercing bellow of a shriek that would befit an old black and white Universal monster flick. In fact, it could become the female version of the Wilhelm scream. Celeste tries to calm her mother-in-law, but she laughs off her concern. “My grief is too loud for you,” she asks. “We should scream. We should scream and beat our breasts and tear our hair.”
The inevitable courtroom showdown between Celeste and Mary Louise over the custody of the twins was somewhat of a letdown. But then again, you can’t beat Mary Louise’s response when someone inquires how she is doing: “I can’t complain — actually I can.” Here is hoping that no one complains if Streep takes home another shiny showbiz knick-knack.
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