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It's Streep Week!
A double issue highlighting (13!) Meryl movies for every member of the family.
My mind has been in full Meryl Streep mode for days now. For example, when our 11-year-old turned on a Radiohead cover (!), I found myself singing, “But I’m a Streeeeeeeeep! / I’m a winnerrrrrrr!” Feel sorry for me, but this is how my brain works. Anyway, Streep Week is upon us and that means TBP is breaking down the most-Oscar-nominated actor’s incredible oeuvre for maximum family entertainment. Without further ado—we’ve got a lot to cover, people—here we go…
Julie & Julia (2009; Starz): Going into this movie last spring break, our kids had zero clue who Julia Child was—or that anyone could be as annoying as food blogger Julie Powell as portrayed by Amy Adams. But somewhat inexplicably, this double-story flick about Child and the young woman who cooked (and blogged) her way through Child’s two-volume Mastering the Art of French Cooking was a massive hit with the youths. Don’t sleep on this one for movie night.
Mamma Mia! (2008; Peacock): Based on the jukebox musical, this ABBA-soundtracked, Greece-set rom-com starring a belting Streep as mother-of-the-bride Donna is a dorky, jubilant, 108-minute all-ages party. The paternity plot—who’s Donna’s daughter Sophie’s (Amanda Seyfried) daddy?—is slightly advanced for younger kids, if they notice it at all. This one’s a blast.
Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018; Sling): As is often the case, the Mamma Mia! sequel doesn’t hit all the high notes of the first as it goes back in time to Donna’s origin story, with Lily James stepping in as young Meryl. The result is totally fine if even cheesier than the original (a feat unto itself). I recommend it only for hardcore ABBA fans, Meryl diehards, and tween girls who relish a saccharine romance.
Out of Africa (1985; rent for $3.99): There’s more syphilis than you’ll find in most PG movies, but don’t let that deter you! Watching young Streep flirt with and fall for young Robert Redford in this turn-of-the-last-century romance is a true delight, as are the costumes and lingo. Even though it’s a period piece, this Best Picture winner would be a very different movie if made today, which in my opinion is part of the original’s charm.
Little Women (2019; buy from $9.99): When I first heard that Meryl had signed on to Greta Gerwig’s adaptation of my personal bible, I assumed she was playing Marmee March, which…fine? But no! Greta and Meryl had better plans! Streep is delicious as salty old Aunt March, the rich, wheelchair-bound pot-stirrer whose fabulous trips to France instigate quite a lot of plot action.
The Devil Wears Prada (2006; Starz): Streep’s Miranda Priestly gets credit for one of our family’s best movie nights ever. Read all about it here.
Music of the Heart (1999; rent from $2.99): Among my favorite details about this sweet, based-on-a-true-story fight for funding music education in a Harlem school is that it was directed by horror master Wes Craven. It’s also got a perfect trio of leading ladies: Angela Bassett, Gloria Estefan (in what was upon the film’s release highly promoted as Estefan’s big-screen debut), and a Streep with the exact wavy hair sported by my own elementary-school music teacher, Mrs. Mangum.
The Prom (2020; Netflix): I tried my best to sit through this stage-to-screen Hollywood-goes-high-school musical, but James Corden, bizarrely and embarrassingly cast as an over-the-top gay Broadway has-been, was just too much to bear. As Tony Award-winning, out-of-touch Dee Dee Allen, though, Streep gives it her campy all and almost rescues the movie for adult viewers. Our 11-year-old, meanwhile, adores this adaptation as-is and knows every word.
The Post (2017; rent from $3.99): My husband and I teach a very selective Journalism in Film class in our living room. And it gets pretty great reviews from its captive pupils. Spielberg’s The Post, in which Streep plays Katherine Graham to Tom Hanks’s Ben Bradlee during the publication of the Pentagon Papers, is a quiet movie for kids weened on films with more action, but it’s actually pretty great and can provide a lot of conversation fodder. (For a, um, gonzo journo-film pick, go with The Great Muppet Caper.)
Into the Woods (2014; Disney+: Though I preferred the Charlottesville High School stage version of this Sondheim classic, Rob Marshall’s movie adaptation is totally…alright? Streep plays the witch who seems to be always showing up, singing very loudly, and screwing with our protagonists. My dad and I may have fallen asleep in the theater on its opening weekend. But tween L.B. has watched it multiple times of her own volition!
The Meryl Movie That Scarred Me As A Kid So I Can’t Recommend:
The River Wild (1994; HBO Max): I will not be getting on a raft with Kevin Bacon ever again! But maybe you dig yelling and waterworks.
The Meryl Voice Performance That I Most Adore:
Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009; Disney+): Meryl instills George Clooney’s canine partner with all the wisdom and elegance you’d expect.
The Meryl Film I’ve Never Seen But Illustrator Mara Sprafkin and 11-Year-Old TBP Correspondent L.B. Swear By
Defending Your Life (1991; HBO Max): L.B says this movie, which Mara says she watched repeatedly as a child and which stars Streep and Albert Brooks in some kind of life-after-death plot, is good but “soooo weiiiiird.”