Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Shoulda Coulda Wouldas #16: "The Good House"

Multiple sources revealed yesterday that Sigourney Weaver and Kevin Kline have been tapped to star in the film adaptation of Ann Leary's 2013 novel, The Good House. For regular readers of this blog, you probably know that I've been holding a bit of a candle for this project for six years now, ever since it was announced that Streep was set to start alongside Robert De Niro. I had pretty much given up hope of ever seeing this story reach the screen, and when I woke up this morning to an alert on my blog that it had been recast, I wasn't really sure what to think.

My first thought was how out of the blue this seemed. I'd assumed this film had died and gone to development hell. But from what I understand, filming is already underway in Canada. The film will be directed by married couple Maya Forbes and Wally Wolodarsky (I know, who?!)--there never had been a previous director attached. Amblin Partners is producing, with Universal handling distribution. Michael Cunningham had been reportedly working on the adaptation in 2013, but the articles I've read suggest that Forbes and Wolordarsky wrote the script. My guess is that the director pair revised Cunningham's original adaptation. 

While I'm excited to see this story brought to the screen, I feel it's an unfortunate missed opportunity for Meryl. Nobody knows how the film is ultimately going to pan out, but I'm very familiar with the book, and have for years now found is protagonist, Hildy Good, a fascinating character. Shes a 60-something realtor on Boston's North Shore: successful, strident, a mother, grandmother, divorced from a gay husband, descended from Salem witches, purportedly psychic, and desperately trying to hide her love affair with alcohol. Imagine Meryl negotiating this woman!

After reading the novel when it was announced Meryl was attached to the film adaptation, I've regularly revisited parts of the story, thanks to the amazing audible version narrated by the great Mary Beth Hurt. It's become a nostalgic story for me. With its historic town, numerous fall and winter scenes, witty dialogue, and comprehensive characterizations, it's a setting that's become  entrenched in my mind.

My hope is that the film does the story justice. I remember hearing Ann Leary in an interview a couple years ago saying that it was still in the development process, and that the producer, Jane Rosenthal, really wanted the script and characters to be as perfect as possible. It'd be great if the reason it's taken six years to go into production was because they were doing just that. Weaver is of course a brilliant actress, so I look forward to her interpretation of the role. On paper, it seems the type of project and character that would garner a lot of attention.
Sadly, The Good House has gone the way of other projects from the not-so-distant past for which Meryl was originally attached. The Last Station, Saving Mr. Banks, and Julieta all ended up being made with other actors in the main roles. In recent years, I had expected The Good House to fall more along the lines of Daughter of the Queen of Sheba, Dirty Tricks and Master Class, all of which have never reached the screen. 

I hope Let Them All Talk and The Prom end up being worth Meryl missing out this fall. Lord knows there are a thousand possible reasons why she never stuck with the project (see The Last Station et al.). Regardless, when The Good House hits theaters in 2020, I'll be one of the first in line.  

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

"The Laundromat" garnering tepid reviews

The Laundromat has now been shown at both the Venice and Toronto International Film Festivals. Over forty reviews have been counted, and I'm disappointed to report that most critics are giving it a thumbs-sideways. The majority of concerns seem to center on the fact that the film it disjointed and smug, does not give enough time to cover the wide swath of ground it wishes to traverse, and is wasting its impressive cast on too much frivolity for such a serious topic.

While that's disappointing to read, Meryl is generally getting best-in-show notices. There are rumblings about the fact that she portrays more than one character, one being a Panamanian woman, and how that may be a a misguided and even offensive example of "brownface."

Those detractors are few, but loud, and from what I can understand, the criticism is probably misplaced. I'll hold off on getting too into it until I see the film, but more to come on that.

The sad thing about the film not doing well is that it's likely going to cost Meryl any love come awards season. I could see it having a better chance at the Golden Globes, but and Oscar nom may be out of reach this time. 

There's always Big Little Lies. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Streep receives Actor Tribute Award at Toronto International Film Festival

Meryl was on hand in Toronto yesterday to promote The Laundromat. She and Joaquin were also both recipients of the inaugural "Actor Tribute" awards. I've been unable to find a video of her speech, but here's a snippet from The Los Angeles Times:

“Lately, I’ve been asking myself a question,” she said of picking her projects. “Does this help or does this hurt? Is this piece of material something that needs to be in the world right now, for whatever reason? And even if it doesn’t help, even if it’s just silly and fun, does it on the other hand do damage? Does it make us complacent? What is it, what is it? 

 “Every artist here has made a choice about the material that they’ve done; they’ve decided to contribute something either by default or by intention,” she continued. “This festival is moving the needle by intention. And even though we didn’t create the moment that we find ourselves in, we can’t cure it individually, we can’t control it, but we sure can contribute to its toxicity. 

 “I just want us all to be really mindful,” Streep concluded. “Time is short — as you reach a certain milestone you realize that. So we should all do the things that count, even if it’s just to get a laugh.”

Wise as always. I wish The Laundromat were getting better reviews. It's hovering around 50% on Rotten Tomatoes, with a total of 25 reviews counted. There are many more sure to come. It would be great it somehow managed to sneak past the 60% "fresh" mark. Even with that, however, this is FAR from a critical darling.  

Meryl seems to be getting pretty good individual notices, however, and it's clear she's willing to campaign for this. It'll be interesting to see how it fares from an awards standpoint. 

The film is in select theaters on September 27, preceding its release to Netflix on October 18. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

"Let Them All Talk" completed in thirteen days

Meryl did several interviews in Venice for the premiere of The Laundromat, and in one of them, she states that Let Them All Talk took only thirteen days to shoot.

From Deadline:

Streep marveled of upcoming Soderberg collaboration Let Them All Talk, “Steven and I just finished a film in 13 days. He’s an artist for this time.” Chimed in the director, “Advances in technology have allowed me to optimize a process that I felt wasn’t moving at the pace that was beneficial to the process. Now I can use the camera as a pen essentially and write it in real time. It’ better for me, not for everybody. I found through some unsuccessful endeavors that I work best when I have to work quickly.”

That's wild. I can't help but feel a little skeptical of quality when something that's implied to be feature length is completed so quickly. But I'm trying to keep an open mind. 

I'll be curious to see if this project gets a theatrical release. It culd be be better for Meryl's award chances if it were Emmy-bound, as she'll also have Ryan Murphy's The Prom next year. 

Monday, September 2, 2019

"The Laundromat" premieres at Venice

Yesterday, Steven Soderbergh's Panama Papers comedy The Laundromat premiered at the Venice International Film Festival, and Meryl was on hand for the event:

Looking stunning as usual. There are close to a dozen reviews for the film already counted so far, and in general, the responses are decent. Its score on Metacritic is only 59 with eleven reviews, while at 58% on Rotten Tomatoes, with twelve. Hopefully the score goes up a bit in the next few weeks. While Meryl is getting good notices, her chances for awards recognition go down if the film isn't as well-received.  

Next up is the Toronto International Film Festival later this week. The film will be in select theaters September 27, and will be available to stream on Netflix on October 18.