The Penultimate Mile: Meryl Streep in One True Thing

(one installment in a quick series counting down from 50 to 26!)

MERYL STREEP IN ONE TRUE THING (1998)

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The competition (Cliff: 4 for 5):

Cate Blanchett in Elizabeth

Fernanda Montenegro in Central Station

Gwyneth Paltrow in Shakespeare in Love

Emily Watson in Hilary and Jackie

The remarkable thing about the Three Goddesses of the Best Actress category, Katharine Hepburn, Bette Davis, and Meryl Streep, is that they almost NEVER missed a nomination.  When they’re in the kind of role that could make the cut or get iced out, their core supporters within the Academy come through for them every time.  One True Thing is not the strongest film Meryl has ever made, and the role, that of a caring housewife to an English professor and their ambitious journalist daughter, both of whom view her as something of an embarrassment until she is stricken with cancer, is hardly the signature role that one might expect to earn her an eleventh nomination, one shy of tying Hepburn’s record.  Still, she gives it her all: as usual, her eyes darting all over the faces of her troubled children and her egotistical husband somehow reveal as much to us about them as they do about her, and the way she lets her character’s mannerisms taper off into a fatigued frustration takes place with unerring grace.  The film still gives her quite a share of clichéd, martyrous moments, and especially a not-going-gentle outburst that clinched the nomination, but Meryl holds it up well enough.  The Academy favored Gwyneth Paltrow in 1998, though I would have preferred the heart-rending Brazilian actress Fernanda Montenegro in Central Station.

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