The first movie I actually remember seeing Meryl Streep in was Sophie's Choice. She broke my heart. Utterly destroyed me, in fact. I will never see that movie nor anything similar again. It was, in short, a great performance that didn't seem like a performance at all. She was Sophie.
I've seen her in many movies since. In recent years there was The Devil Wears Prada and last year's Mama Mia. And always, whether she is playing unutterable tragedy, a thorough bitch, or singing and dancing her way through a frothy frolic, she always does it. She completely embodies the spirit of the character she is playing. She becomes that person.
It wasn't a surprise to me then, when I finally got around to seeing Julie and Julia today, to see her transformed into Julia Child. By now, I am on to her tricks. But what a performance! She captured the glorious Julia in her accent, her mannerisms, her awkwardness, her love of life, her authenticity.
She's already been nominated for awards for this performance and, no doubt, she'll be nominated for an Oscar, but I'm not sure there is an award big enough for what she does. There was one scene in the movie where Julia and Paul are walking along a street in Paris and they encounter a young mother pushing a baby carriage and in Julia's glance at that baby carriage was an entire story that needed no exposition. It was a story of loss and disappointment. No baby.
It was Julia's sadness we saw in that scene. It could just as well have been Sophie's.