Meryl Streep as Baroness Karen von Blixen-Finecke
Meryl will benefit from a lot of things while I write this, mostly generosity, because how can one really resist her charms, even when she’s not even trying… I favour her because she’s probably in my Top 3 favorite actresses, because she is so impressive & intimidating in her Oscar record and because I like Out of Africa quite a lot. And look at the screentime, there’s plenty of Meryl in it, and even more than the numbers would suggest.
Meryl plays Baroness Karen Blixen, a Danish woman who impulsively marries a man she doesn’t love, for his title, to spite her lover & looking for an adventure. They settle in Africa just before WWI and they keep a farm. As she becomes more disappointed with the marriage, she starts an affair with a very free-spirited huntsman. The film is all about her, and while she doesn’t get to cry or scream, it’s quite an emotional role.
As I said, this is not a flashy role, even though there could’ve been opportunities. This might be because the film is so quiet, there’s a certain tranquillity to it, so any unexpected burst of tears & shouting would’ve damaged the balance. In many ways, I appreciate that, it’s like a small sacrifice Meryl has to do, settling for a less demanding, more subtle part. By keeping it natural and flowy, she makes it look so damn easy.
Thankfully, I’ve seen it 3 times now, and I could tell this wasn’t as plain as some might find it. I was ok with the accent and I admire Meryl’s love for the camera and the camera’s love for Meryl, how she gives the right look, the right expression, the right body movement at the right point. She’s delicate, feminine but strong in that feminist way, and as always gave me the impression of a deep understanding of the character.
She’s rarely been so beautiful in a mature way, and brings something warm and likeable to Karen, something any central character should have. And she manages to keep the likeability even in such scenes at the end where Karen is jealous and possessive. With the help of good a screenplay, she keeps it human, playing it in a subtle way, as if arguing in favour of her character’s constant need for possession and security.
It’s certainly not the most challenging role she’s ever had to play, but she is the one mostly carrying the film. While she rarely gets a more volcanic scene, she’s constantly great throughout, slowly building a character that’s both convincing & likeable, even when not hiding from showing us Karen’s flaws. It looks easy because it’s Meryl doing it, and good acting from Meryl definitely gets a from me.
***the screentime was difficult to count, because of the voice-overs and mostly because of shots from long distance, where I wasn’t sure if a body double was used. I expected more screentime, as she is in almost every scene; however, in dialogues, the camera is not always on her, which takes away from the overall screentime.