Archive for Thursday, July 13, 2006

Streep, heat motivates movie outings

July 13, 2006

Two weeks ago I suggested you stroll through an air-conditioned bookstore (forgetting to add the local library as well) and pick up a book that might transport you to a popular vacation spot without the need of a long, tiresome trip, take you to another time (perhaps the colorful Victorian era) or read a tense thriller to scare yourself to death at midnight when you can't sleep. Well, this week since we are still in the middle of the summer, another suggestion I might make is to relax in the air-conditioned comfort of a movie theatre.

There are lots of summer movies out there, and since my husband has a thing for Meryl Streep we always seem to go to the movies when she's in them. She was featured in two very different roles this past week and I thought it might be fun to do a review in case anyone is interested.

The first one was "A Prairie Home Companion." As I've mentioned numerous times in the past, I am a fan of Garrison's Keillor's weekly radio show and was anxious to get a look at the faces that belong to the voices I hear each week. The movie adhered to the format of the radio program, but had its own theme, which was the closing of the show after this last performance. Favorite characters were on board like Dusty and Lefty the latte drinking cowpokes, which manage to poke fun at each other and every other ridiculous new fad.

There was also the gospel trio who are featured every week along with guests Streep and Lily Tomlin as the Johnson Sisters -- all that remained of a singing, foursome, family group. They were funny as they reminisced about their fictitious family and, boy could both of them sing. It seems Meryl Streep was planning a singing career before she became an actor.

Keillor roamed the stage adding tidbits of humor and his bass voice to the musical numbers. The dialogue was as funny as always and the message was the same -- the good old days were better and memories of those days are rich and sacred. Even the "Angel of Death" who stalked the show in the person of a lovely blonde came to take the oldest member of the troupe and to remind the cast (and us) that everything changes and eventually all things come to an end.

Keillor wore bright red sneakers and a red tie with his black suit that added just the right touch of whimsy that he does so well. I have decided, however, that I would rather listen to the show than see it, because I actually like my own imaginings of the cast and the pictures Keillor creates in my head as he skillfully winds his way through stories that resonate with all of us. Seeing it seemed almost a distraction. But go see it if you're a fan, and even if you're not. It's fun.

A clever departure for Streep came in the movie "The Devil Wears Prada." This is a look at the fashion industry -- first hand and hopefully exaggerated because it is one snotty movie. Lots of insults are aimed at the Girl Friday (Anne Hathaway as a lovely, round-eyed waif in a blue sweater and clunky shoes) with no fashion savvy who manages to snare the job as the personal assistant to the boss of a slick glamour magazine played by a sophisticated Streep.

Streep plays the role to perfection as the black widow boss (or the Dragon Lady as she is referred to by her staff) who eats little Girl Fridays for lunch as she flounces through the movie wearing designer clothes, huge black sunglasses and an upswept platinum hairdo. At some point, as the tempo of insults increases along with the mostly undoable tasks thrown at her by her boss, a somewhat sympathetic colleague takes pity on the waif and the predictable makeover occurs. Makeovers are always fun. As the waif emerges --complete with new hairdo and makeup as well as a fantastic designer wardrobe -- you feel you have been transported down the runway into the realm of high fashion filled with beautiful people who jump off the pages of such fashion magazines as "Vogue."

Somewhere in here is a boyfriend who gets forgotten as the waif changes under the pressure of a world made of smoke and mirrors or make up and accessories, whichever you prefer.

Needless to say, the movie evolves somewhat predictably with a slight twist that is captured in the last scene as waif meets Dragon Lady on the street after walking away from the job in a moment of clarity -- throwing her cell phone (the ever demanding tool of the boss) into a fountain in Paris and returning to the real world.

After the chance encounter where the Dragon Lady and the waif stare at each other for a few seconds without a nod of recognition, the Dragon Lady is swept away in a cab to yet another fashion scene and she smiles ever so slightly as she watches the waif turn and walk triumphantly away.

The knowing smile confirms a truth that even the Dragon Lady knows -- that only a few are chosen to lead the life of the hardcore fashion celebrity, or for that matter, any celebrity be they actors, rock stars, super athletes, fashion models and even high flying fashion editors of glamour magazines. The old axiom applies. All that glitters is not gold -- especially "real" gold.

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