Sunday, November 27, 2016

Shoulda Coulda Wouldas #14: "Julieta"

Pedro Almodóvar's 20th film, Julieta, debuted at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year.  It was at this time that several articles came out describing how Almodóvar had originally wanted to have Meryl in the title role for his picture.  Sometime after meeting in 2003, the director evidently contacted Meryl and pitched his idea to her about the film.  From what I can understand, this likely would have been after 2009, when Almodóvar purchased the film rights to Alice Munro's book of short stories entitled Runaway.  The interesting twist in the casting was that Streep was to play Julieta (Juliet) at three very different stages of life: ages 20, 40 and 60, without the aide of makeup or special effects, something described by Almodóvar as "Ingrid Bergman-like."  Despite scouting filming areas in both parts of Canada and New York, the director unfortunately didn't feel like he had a comfortable grasp of American culture or the English language to successfully make the film he originally envisioned.

I had the opportunity to see the film this weekend and have to admit that it's difficult for me to imagine Meryl playing the character all by herself, at least if it took place now or in the past five years.  We see Julieta as a young woman and the circumstances around the conception and raising of her child to the age of early adulthood.  The nature of the story goes back and forth between different points in time and actually begins with her likely in her early 50s, wondering about the whereabouts of her now estranged daughter.  I understand that it would've taken some artistic license to not break up the role, but Almodóvar apparently believed that Streep deserved to negotiate the entire character herself.  I'm sure that would have been fascinating.

Being that the character spans a couple decades and ages of 20s to 50s/60s, it seems natural to have two characters.  As it pertains to the possibility of Meryl actually being in the film and when it could've been made, I agree that splitting the role between two actresses may be the best way to go.  I totally love the novelty of Streep playing it in its entirety, but if it were to be made with her today, maybe she could've had this be a film she and her daughter Grace could share.  It would be a big role for Grace, but I think she'd be up to it.  Or maybe Kate Winslet?  Streep's part would also then be the smaller of the two.  Were the film to have happened earlier, like five to ten years ago, I'd be more inclined to expect Meryl alone.

Where I struggle in my brain of course is trying to fit this film into the "reimagined filmography" timeline that I've created for myself.  Could we switch this with 2007's Dirty Tricks?  I realize that Almodóvar didn't even purchase the film rights to Runaway until 2009, but the book was published in 2004 and often we see film versions of books within a couple years.  We also know that Ryan Murphy still has the rights to Dirty Tricks.  Martha Mitchell would have been in her mid 50's at the time of that story surrounding the Watergate scandal, no problem for Meryl age-wise, and a political film release in 2017 would absolutely capture the zeitgeist.  After all considerations, however, being that Almodóvar's main reason for not making this in English was that he struggled with the language, if it were going to happen with Meryl, it was going to happen later than sooner.

Nothing has to be decided at this moment, but Julieta is a lovely film and very interesting character.  Any chance Meryl would have to work on a project with an auteur director needs to be snatched up, so it's a shame we weren't able to see this ultimately come together with Almodóvar and Streep.  Add it to the list.

1 comment:

  1. I saw this movie a couple of months ago, and it blew my mind. I had the great opportunity of reading the short stories (Julieta is a mix of two from the same book) and actually seeing the version as a spanish native speaker. You could tell that Almodóvar feels way more comfortable filming in his own language. His film, which is beautifly done, truly shows his version of the events in the reality of Spanish culture.

    I also feel that the story would've collide too much with American culture about mother and daughter relationship. I fear it wouldn't have reached the sensitivity climax that the Spanish version was able to get.

    Nevertheless, I dream that Streep and Almodóvar could work together in the future someday. He's a true fan of hers and he writes excellent scripts for female actors.