However, as the end credits rolled, I couldn't help but wish she'd do this more often. Streep obviously verges more on the mainstream side of the fence than some may think, but she so often takes roles in films that are only fleetingly as good and interesting as her performances in them. Making Mamma Mia! may have defied expectations once, but not anymore, and it'd be great if she could take on an original property that felt truly unique and necessary. I'd love to see her put that enviable skill to another film like The River Wild, or, as I've long wished - and said so on multiple occasions - a scary film in the tradition of The Innocents and The Others. Hell, if they have to remake Gaslight like they keep threatening, I'd dive at the chance to see Streep's take on the material. It would certainly pique my interest, because as much as I look forward to the big screen adaptation of August: Osage County, her casting feels particularly musky.
|David Straithairn, Josh C Reilley, Meryl Streep, Kevin Bacon, and the kid from Jurassic Park!|
Hell, if they just went and rereleased The River Wild, I am sure its reception would be a hell of a lot more positive than it was in 1994. It's score on Rotten Tomatoes - always an iffy prospect for movies made before, say, 2000 - indicates a 50/50 split between those who didn't like it and those who enjoyed it as little more than disposable genre fluff. It's very easy to hypothesise that if this white water rafting thrill-seaker action flick (yes, I'm guessing that was once used as a way to sell The River Wild!) being made today with, for instance, Jessica Chastain (they'd naturally cast younger, but in a pinch maybe they'd choose Sandra Bullock?) and Jeremy Renner in the Kevin Bacon villain role and being greeted with rapturous response. Given the dire state of action filmmaking, The River Wild's more old school sensibility - lack of plastic CGI, actual identifiably flawed human characters, established adult actors over "next big thing" type gambles - would surely prove a calming respite from a world full of John Carter, The Hobbit, and The Avengers. I mean, the amount of times I've read "good enough" (or a variation of it) in relation to an action film outside the realm of superheroes and sci-fi is alarming.
It's perhaps possible to make the argument that I am projecting modern day action film disappointment on to The River Wild and claiming it to be greater than it actually it. I certainly wouldn't shoot you down if you said that, but I do think the film is a remarkably effective one for many of the reasons I've already stated. Streep's aura of authority looms over the film, propelling its dramatic moments to as high a peak as its adventurous, oft-thrilling action setpieces. I admired the way Jerry Goldsmith's score and Robert Elswit's cinematography go together so handsomely. And I though Hanson's handling of the action scenes - as potentially messy and discombobulating as ones involving white water rafting could get - were all superb. "Meryl Streep kicks ass" isn't a saying that can be uttered all that often, but in doing so here she helped make The River Wild a cut above the rest. B+