Susan Traherne has been irreparably changed by her wartime experiences as a Resistance fighter. She sets out in the post-war world to make her way to what she wants, no matter who is hurt, or how. Written by
In "Plenty" (***1/2). Meryl Streep gives one of her greatest performances in the complex role of "Susan Traherne", an idealistic young Englishwoman whose compulsive need to stir things up comes in conflict with a crippling lack of courage. We follow her life from her days in the French Resistance at the end of World War II to her professional and emotional decline during the 60's. Her key line: "I want to change the world, but I don't know how." The supporting cast, production and direction are superb, and the score by Bruce Smeaton is hauntingly beautiful. The character functions as both a metaphor for postwar England and a real flesh and blood human being, although it's a flaw that we don't learn more about her family background, apparently an upper class one, which might have contributed more to an understanding of her later, often perverse, behavior. The only two people she seems to have in the world are Charles Dance, playing her long-suffering diplomat husband and Tracy Ullmann, wonderful as her free-spirited best friend, probably the kind of person Susan would like to have been if it were not for her "fatal weakness": she likes "losing control." This film has been newly released in its original Panavision dimension on DVD and looks terrific. Seeing it the way it should be seen only enhances my opinion that it's one of the most underrated movies of the 80's.
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