Actor Spotlight: Sophie’s Choice
Meryl Streep is considered to be one of the great actresses of this generation. I personally tend to agree. This movie really shows what a powerful actress she is. Sophie’s Choice is considered Meryl Streep’s greatest performance. It’s the movie that made her a star and won her an Oscar for Best Actress. It’s a gripping, tragic movie about love and loss set in the aftermath of World War II.
The movie starts by introducing us to Brooklyn, New York in 1947 through the eyes of a young Southern writer named Stingo (Peter MacNicholl). Stingo has moved to New York to finish his novel. He feels he’s been sheltered by living in the South and wants to experience life in the “Big City”. As he says in the movie, cheap apartments in Manhattan were hard to find even in the 1940′s and he ends up living at a boarding house in Brooklyn. There he meets and befriends a young couple living above him, Sophie (Streep) and Nathan (Kevin Kline).
At first, Sophie and Nathan seem like a typical young couple in love. Sophie’s a Polish immigrant and Nathan’s her passionate and overprotective lover. They do everything together. They seem happy around the edges, but there’s something about Sophie that seems a bit off. Nathan, too. The first time Stingo has an encounter with his new neighbors they are in the middle of a loud argument that ends with Nathan cursing Stingo out and leaving the house for good, or so he says. The next day, Sophie and Nathan act as if nothing happened and invite Stingo out to Coney Island.
Stingo finds it all a bit odd, but his naïve nature gets the better of him and he thinks of it all as life in the big city. As time goes on the three of them become good friends and learn more about each other. It turns out that Sophie is a Holocaust survivor. When Nathan met her, he saved her life by nursing her back to health and just being her friend. Sophie is eternally grateful for this and is willing to forgive Nathan’s moments of jealousy (like the argument Stingo witnessed) and his somewhat erratic behavior. America and New York are still new to Sophie and so are the people. As we get to know more about these characters and what they are about we learn that Sophie had to make a choice that will forever haunt her and that Nathan really isn’t anything like who or what he seems to be.
They really don’t make movies like Sophie’s Choice anymore. It’s an intense drama filmed like a stage play. Most of the movie is people talking about life and love. It’s a mesmerizing movie.
Streep is hypnotic as Sophie. Her accent is perfect. She looks and talks like a Polish woman who stepped off the boat at Ellis Island after the war. It’s a brilliant performance. I had seen this before when I was a lot younger and I didn’t really understand what I was watching at the time. Seeing it now I understand why Streep is still thought of as one of the greatest American actresses. The scene where we find out what her choice was is one of the most gut-wrenching things I have ever seen in a movie. You can see her heart break with every word she says. Her portrayal of Sophie is one that sticks with you after watching the movie.
Kevin Kline is also great in this movie. His Nathan is, for me, a tragic character. His story in the movie is in its own way sadder than Sophie’s. He never had to make a choice because he can’t. He’s a prisoner of his own mind. It took me a bit to get used to him in this because I’m used to seeing him in comedies like A Fish Called Wanda. Nothing prepared me for his Nathan, what happens to him and why.
Sophie’s Choice is a movie that stays with you after you’ve seen it. It breaks your heart and makes you think about what sacrifice really means. Streep’s best performance. A must see.