I was home in Cebu two weekends ago when I got Her Again, Becoming Meryl Streep. I killed time at the biography section of National Bookstore while waiting for a buddy who’s helping me on my house construction plans.
Biography is a genre that I am yet to properly discover. My first biography was Danielle Steel’s. I was in high school, at that stage where I thought adult literature was synonymous with Steel and Sidney Sheldon. My next bio was more of a memoir called Piece by Piece. It was by Tori Amos who was once upon a time my most favorite artist. I still dig her music though her emotional effect on me ain’t no longer as potent. I am getting older and more at peace.
I love Meryl Streep. I haven’t watched all her films but almost all are in my hard drive. I am rationing my consumption. I am unsure what my first Meryl film was but I fell in love with her in Bridges of Madison County. I’ve read Robert James Waller’s melodramatic novel but Meryl gave believable life to the story. The scene where she was fighting the urge to step out of the car and leave her husband to be with her rain-soaked lover, Clint Eastwood, was gutwrenching. I became a devotee after Kramer Vs. Kramer, which I watched on VHS rented from the now defunct Video City. The courtroom scene where she fights for custody is harrowing, still moves me though I’ve watched it many times.
Her Again is like a Marvel origin film: how Meryl Streep became a star, why she is a living legend. The title was from her Oscar acceptance speech when she won her third one for The Iron Lady. The author Michael Schulman wrote a fascinating portrait of a woman who was always drawn to the arts but who’s first acting job was to be a high school sweetheart. She was succesful; she was voted homecoming queen.
I’ve read from Susan Cain’s Quiet that it takes 10,000 hours of practice for anyone to truly become an expert in a chosen field. That was Meryl Streep. She studied drama at Vassar and Yale then immersed herself in the New York theatre scene. She was however a natural talent, always highly regarded first by her classmates and professors then later on by directors and peers in both theatre and film industry. Meryl nonetheless was always the professional. While she would juggle acting gigs, she is careful in choosing roles to play. She immerses herself in the character, infusing humanity and freshness. In writing this bio, Schulman investigated and interviewed only those who were part of Meryl’s rise and evolution, but never the actress herself.
The emotional core of Her Again was Meryl’s romance with John Cazale, The Godfather’s Fredo. Their spark began as they played leads for Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure. But their relationship was shortlived. John succumbed to lung cancer after The Deer Hunter. While Meryl remains married to sculptor Don Gummer whom she wed just months after John’s death, John was her first great love. John was her great act of surrender and selflessness.
Her Again concluded in 1980, when Kramer Vs. Kramer swept the Academy Awards and Meryl won her first of three Oscars. I was amazed at how quickly I read this biography. The writing is easy inasmuch as it is loaded with information about theatre. The funny thing was I don’t really care much about NY theatre though it is something to look forward to. I watched Children of A Lesser God at Studio 54 when I visited US earlier this year; Joshua Jackson was the play’s lead actor. I breezed through the biography’s 260-plus pages and loved Meryl more.
Meryl Streep is now approaching her 70s yet she continues to portray powerful roles. She was amazing in The Post as Washington Post publisher, Katherine Graham. Such remarkable talent. Very incredible human being.