March 17, 1995 in Seven

Meryl Streep Puts Some Muscle Into Her Cerebral Acting Career

By The Spokesman-Review
 

She first came to notice as one of the ensemble cast of “Holocaust,” that critically acclaimed 1978 miniseries about the German death camps of World War II. Her efforts won her an Emmy.

But it wasn’t until later that same year, when she co-starred with the likes of Robert De Niro and Christopher Walken in Michael Cimino’s “The Deer Hunter,” that Meryl Streep earned her star.

Meryl Streep. Even the name sounds theatrical.

Some say she is all “technique,” that there is little soul below the various accents that she pronounces with such ease. That, however, is just another way of describing the results of disciplined practice.

Besides, in addition to her accentrich performances in “Sophie’s Choice,” “Out of Africa” and “A Cry in the Dark,” she has proven to be a comedic talent in such films as “Postcards From the Edge” and “Defending Your Life.”

In “The River Wild” (see capsule review below), Streep takes her talents a step further. Newly muscled-up, she portrays an ex-river guide who has to battle not only a raging river but a couple of killers - all while trying to chase off a few ghosts from her past and hold together a crumbling marriage.

That amalgamation of skills doesn’t call for technique. It demands versatility.

Strange on the shelves

Someday soon, as you’re browsing the new-release shelves, you may come across a little film titled “Arizona Dream” (Warner). And it just might intrigue you.

After all, you’ll notice, it stars Johnny Depp, Faye Dunaway and Jerry Lewis (yes, that Jerry Lewis). And while you may not notice this, it was directed by a notable foreign director, Emir Kusturica of the former Yugoslavia (who directed “When Father Was Away on Business” and “Time of the Gypsies”).

While Kusturica’s film has enjoyed a limited theatrical release, it is virtually a straight-to-video venture - and the reviews indicate why.

According to the Boston Globe’s Jay Carr, “‘Arizona Dream’ is a very special kind of disaster, the kind that comes only from an esteemed European director set loose in the United States with a cast and a budget and absolutely no destination in mind.”

Carr may be right. But with a cast and director like that, how can you resist?

New releases

The River Wild

***

In stark contrast to her previous career as a respected dramatic actress, Meryl Streep resorts to action here. As an ex-river-guide named Gail, Streep faces a failing marriage, a few unresolved skeletons of her own and, suddenly, the threat of a pair of murderers. Throughout, she holds her own - even when the film goes into the big waves of Montana’s Kootenai River. Also starring David Strathairn and Kevin Bacon. Rated PG-13.

Stargate

* 1/2

We have seen God and He/She/It is … Jaye Davidson? Yes, that’s the bizarre view offered by this minor scifi thriller from director and coscreenwriter Roland Emmerich. And it’s a view not completely without appeal. But Emmerich acts as if he’s afraid to equate the birth of humanity with “Crying Game”-type gender-bending. So the film’s firsthalf energy, involving an Egyptian mystical mystery tour, dissipates into a standard Hollywood whiz-bang melodrama that ties up all the loose ends - from James Spader’s search for meaning and Kurt Russell’s exemption from guilt to a slave revolt that carries obvious references to the intifada. Imagine: We travel across the galaxy and find … the Middle East. Rated PG-13.

Short takes

“Caro Diario” - An Italian man (Nanni Moretti) bikes around his home country and details his humorous exploits in his diary. In Italian with English subtitles.

“Cyborg Soldier” - A sequel to 1993’s “Cyborg Cop,” this actionthriller involves a government experiment to turn death-row inmates into cyborg slaves.

“Across the Moon” - Two young women set out on a road trip in search of a new life.

MEMO: This is a sidebar that appeared with the story: What’s new to view Available this weekend: “The River Wild” (MCA/Universal), “Stargate” (LIVE), “Radio Inside” (MGM/UA), “Cyborg Soldier” (New Line), “Caro Diario” (New Line), “Across the Moon” (Hemdale). Available on Tuesday: “The Specialist” (Warner), “Only You” (Columbia TriStar), “The Scent of Green Papaya” (Columbia TriStar), “Angels in the Outfield” (Disney), “Crackerjack” (Republic).

This is a sidebar that appeared with the story: What’s new to view Available this weekend: “The River Wild” (MCA/Universal), “Stargate” (LIVE), “Radio Inside” (MGM/UA), “Cyborg Soldier” (New Line), “Caro Diario” (New Line), “Across the Moon” (Hemdale). Available on Tuesday: “The Specialist” (Warner), “Only You” (Columbia TriStar), “The Scent of Green Papaya” (Columbia TriStar), “Angels in the Outfield” (Disney), “Crackerjack” (Republic).


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