Published on: January 27, 2012
Let’s get this out of the way.
I love Meryl Streep. Adore her. Have ever since I saw her do “Taming of the Shrew” in Central Park back in the summer of 1978.
But I hated, absolutely hated The Iron Lady
, her new biopic about Margaret Thatcher. I hated this movie as much as I’ve hated any movie I’ve seen this year.
Not sure it is her fault. Streep’s performance is technically perfect, as she catches every Thatcher intonation and mannerism that we’re familiar with. But while I was watching her, I kept thinking of Frank Langella’s Richard Nixon in Frost/Nixon
, in which the actor crawled inside the former president and exposed his innards. I never got that sense with Streep’s Thatcher. (To be honest, I would not have even nominated her for Best Actress this year.)
The fault may rest with the movie’s writer, Abi Morgan, who takes a paint-by-numbers approach to the movie. Certain things have to be dealt with, and they are checked off, one by one, without any real insight into what or why Thatcher is thinking or feeling. Or, it could be the uninspired direction of Phyllida Lloyd, who also directed Streep in the execrable Mama Mia!
Thatcher is a fascinating figure who deserves an insightful, probing movie about her life and times. This isn’t it.
I liked The Artist
a lot more. The Artist
is a French movie that has the distinction of being both black-and-white and (mostly) silent, tracing how a silent film star named George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) deals with the collapse of the silent film industry and the dawn of talkies. To say the least, he does not handle it well ... like a lot of business people, he does not recognize the inevitable march of time and technology, and is unable to adapt. (Big business lesson here!) He invests in a legacy project that proves to be irrelevant to the consumer, and struggles with the new paradigm.
If I have one problem with The Artist
, it is that the movie does not strike me as having any subtlety. The story is straightforward, and doesn’t really tell us anything about this period of time that we didn’t know from Singing in the Rain
. But that seems like a minor kvetch
under the circumstances, because The Artist
is filled with winning performances (Berenice Bejo is especially wonderful as a starlet who sees her career blossom with the talkies), and is a highly entertaining hour and forty minutes at the movies. I’m not sure it merits the kind of Best Picture accolades that it has been receiving, but I enjoyed it. A lot.
Nobody would ever mistake me for a particularly spiritual guy, but I want to unreservedly recommend to you a book that, essentially, is about the nature of spirituality. “Breakfast with Buddha,” by Roland Merullo, is a terrific novel about a not-very-spiritual guy who ends up on a cross-country road trip with Rinpoche, his sister’s spiritual advisor. The trip starts with this guy being highly cynical and snarky, though he has a sense that something is missing from his life; as they drive from New York to North Dakota, he is challenged by Rinpoche, and gives as good as he gets.
The thing is, “Breakfast with Buddha” never gets sentimental or preachy. Far from it. The book is funny, immensely entertaining, and thoughtful without being sanctimonious.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should note here that Kate McMahon read “Breakfast with Buddha” and recommended it to me because she said the main character, Otto Ringling, reminded her of me - we are about the same age, we’re both happily married with a couple of kids, we both struggle with our weight and would happily drive hours out of our way for a good meal or an interesting wine or beer, and sarcasm tends to be our default position. She was right about that - the similarities were often uncomfortable for me.
“Breakfast with Buddha” is a wonderful book. Read it, and let me know what you think. (This could launch just the kind of offbeat conversation we specialize in here on MNB...)
Two wine recommendations for you this week.
The 2010 Boxhead Shiraz, from Australia, which is full-bodied and delicious.
The 2010 Anne Pichon Viognier, from France, which has a nice clean feel to it with just a hint of sweetness.
You’ll like both ... and if you can’t find them locally, they are both available from Nicholas Roberts Ltd., which powers the MNB Wine Club. (Find out more by clicking on the graphic at left...)
That’s it for this week. Have a great weekend, and I’ll see you Monday.