Streep's Siren Song

Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog
Aug. 5 2009 1:26 PM

Streep's Siren Song

Meryl Streep has two irresistible performances running side-by-side this summer: her role as Julia Child in Nora Ephron’s Julie & Julia and her promotional tour on behalf of same. On TV , on the radio , on food blogs , you can’t escape Meryl these days, and here’s the strange part: You don’t really want to. Streep’s air of casual enthusiasm on the talk-show circuit is yet another example of her ability to turn show-business clichés on their heads—when it comes to Meryl, 60 is sexier than 30, comedy is more moving than tragedy, and spending a month answering the same questions in hotel rooms from an endless succession of journalists is an occasion for sparkling conversation. For God’s sake, the woman managed to give a substantive and thoughtful interview to Access Hollywood , despite the canned questions. (Note to unseen interviewer: When sitting down with a subject, remember to look up from the script long enough to listen to what they’re saying.)

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Perhaps my favorite Streep appearance so far was her spot on The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien last week. In a low-cut red dress and black spike heels, Streep flirts poor Conan into a jelly, describing how she stuffed her bra with paper towels to convince Sydney Pollack to cast her in Out of Africa . After a commercial break, she whips out a concertina, which she received as a birthday gift from a friend last week (let me repeat, for emphasis— s he just turned 60! ) and demonstrates her first composition on the instrument, entitled "Siren Song." "You know the Greek myth about the Sirens who would lure men onto the rocks?" she asks Conan by way of setup. Oh, yes, Meryl. We most certainly do.

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Photograph of Meryl Streep courtesy of Kevin Winter/Getty Images.

Dana Stevens is Slate's movie critic.