Request: Plenty

Obviously we're going to need a Meryl Streep movie in the canon, or two, but what should it be? My own feeling is that it's probably going to be the Mike Nichols film "Silkwood," but I'd like to make a stretch for the great director Fred Schepisi's essentially neglected 1985 film "Plenty." It's an adaptation of the great David Hare play about a woman who is completely disillusioned after WWII, thereby becoming a fascinating pain in the ass. The main character, and Streep's performance of it, are wonderfully ambivalent. Is she rebelling against a bourgeois cage of respectability or merely self-destructive? Perhaps she's both? Streep here is the female equivalent of the Jack Nicholson character in "Five Easy Pieces," acting out, attitudinizing, only set against a shifting political background, England's moral decline and hypocrisy during the cold war era--Because she's a woman there's an extra added dimension in that the film plays with the audience's probable inclinations to reject female anger, arrogance and nastiness as crazy; that may indeed be the case, the movie doesn't resolve our blurred feelings about her. It's beautifully photographed and Meryl Streep has never been more glamorously neurotic than she is here; Sam Neill, her hunky wartime over night spy lover, has never been sexier either; and Tracy Ullmann, in her first movie role, I think, gives a terrific, spunky supporting performance as an independent bohemian girl, which adds a little sparkle to the proceedings. The movie wasn't well received at the time, but I think the Canon ought to take a second look at this sophisticated picture. Plus, you all are constantly looking for complex films about women. Well here you is.

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