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PLENTY cast such a spell on me. It is one of those films which has a mood and tone all of its own. It is sombre, dreamy and elegaic. And it features a little seen, yet compelling and masterful central performance from Meryl Streep, who lights up the screen with the type of intelligence and female strength one laments the absence of in contemporary film.
Based on David Hare's play, PLENTY (like so much of his work) boasts wonderfully complex, multi-layered roles for women. Meryl Streep and Tracey Ullmann excel with the intelligent dialogue given to them by this incredible writer - and despite the plethora of strong male actors surrounding them, it is the women whose stories move and interest us the most.
What I love about PLENTY is that so much about it is anti-Hollywood. Its convoluted plot is often incoherent and dreamlike, its dependence upon memories and the co-existence of past and present present challenges for audiences who normally would be sign posted in the 'correct' direction. It has an impressionistic, hypnotic feel, and the film's characters, especially Susan, are unappologetic and potentially dislikeable people. Its narrative resoultion is ambiguous, refusing the closure of more traditional dramas. Here we have a film which refuses to pander to the demands of the mainstream, and for that it is to be applauded.
Is there anything new that any of us can say about Meryl Streep??? This is a must for admirers of the actress, and a must for anyone with a penchant for riveting, deeply intelligent acting. Meryl grabs the part by the throat, investing Susan with a compelling defiance, a fierce intelligence, a sensuality, and a restrained beauty. Watch out for the dinner party scene. I forgot there was anyone else in the room (a room which included Sir John Gielgud and Charles Dance!) Such command, such depth, and such naturalness. This is an actress of phenomenal depth and magnificent expression. And such wonderful chemistry with the other actors! (Even Charles Dance who reportedly was a bit of a diva on set!! I wonder if this helped to enhance the fiery antagonsim between them on screen?)
In sum, PLENTY is deeply complicated, but give it time, watch it more than once and you will be rewarded. For its thoughtful direction, its searing, intricate dialogue and its mesmerising acting - this is a film that deserves to be seen by much larger audiences. Bravo Queen Meryl!!
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