It is no secret that Meryl Streep is a wonderful actor, deeply committed to her craft. And one of the most crucial things that make her a versatile artiste is her ability to impersonate and mimic her characters’ voice. Right from her early award-winning films like Sophie’s Choice to even later releases like The Iron Lady, Streep has shown the many flavours of language and speech through her performances.
Here’s a quick look at five such films where the Oscar-winner proved why she is considered the First Lady of Cinema by many across generations.
Sophie’s Choice (Polish)
The Alan J Pakula directorial Sophie’s Choice is a heartbreaking movie, in which we root for Meryl’s character Zofia ‘Sophie’ Zawistowski, a Polish Catholic woman to come out of a dark period alive and somewhat content. But those who have watched the tragic film will know, all that hope was to no avail. One of the primary reasons that we empathise with Sophie, and which makes us believe that she is ‘real’ is her ability to be Zofia. We believe Zofia and her story because we believe her speech. Meryl’s inflections as she spoke English with a Polish accent, and then German with a Polish accent too, largely informed our opinion of her. That the history her character recounts is true, that she really went through the experiences she went through. That she is a Polish woman with a sad past.
Meryl Streep won an Academy Award for her performance in the film.
A Cry in the Dark (Australian)
Cut to some years later, and we see Meryl affecting an Australian accent in the 1988 movie A Cry in the Dark, about a couple who were believed to have ‘sacrificed’ their infant as some kind of religious ancient offering. The story is set in Australia and therefore, it was obvious that the characters would have to speak with an Australian accent. Meryl, as she is in most of her films, was a natural. No surprises there then that she was once again nominated for the prestigious Oscar in Best Actress in a Leading Role category.
Bronx is a specific kind of accent spoken in the Bronx region of the States. Meryl Streep’s Sister Aloysius Beauvier affects a Bronx accent in the acclaimed 2008 film Doubt, where she is shown as a stern figure of authority who doubts that Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Father Brendan Flynn has designs on a black student. In case you were wondering, Meryl was nominated for an Oscar. Again.
Now this is a personal favourite, Meryl playing renowned American chef Julia Child who popularised French cuisine in the US. This is a person who was not only celebrated for her contribution to the culinary world, but was recognised for her iconic mannerisms and tone of speech. You will know what I am talking about once you compare Julia Child and Meryl Streep impersonating Julia Child for the heartwarming Nora Ephron movie. Meryl inhabited the very skin of Julia, as she jumped, giggled and charmed her audience. Watch it to believe it!
The Iron Lady (British)
And when you thought Meryl Streep has done what she could and could not surprise anymore, the beloved artiste once again left viewers spellbound as she put on a very believable British accent to portray the first female prime minister of the UK, Margaret Thatcher. Though the movie itself left the critics divided, no one had doubts (pun intended) about Meryl being her usual stellar self.
Here’s hoping that the actor continues to enthrall the audience and win over a new generation of fans, as she has done all these past decades.