* I strongly believe there exists a natural fusion which man has not yet acknowledged, so thank goodness I have: God’s gift to humanity in the eighth wonder of the world, Meryl Streep, and fine taste for the liquid side of life. So here it is: cocktails inspired by the performances and films of Meryl Streep. Two parts reflection, two parts rant, a ‘ballpark’ amount of alcohol units and a whole lot of Streep. So let us raise our glasses together to the legend, the woman and the tipples. *
Sister Aloysius’ Delicious Citrus Marvel
4 oz Red Wine
6 oz Orange soda
Celebrate Meryl’s thirteenth Academy Award nomination (“Doubt”, 2008) with this simply sinful nectar. Guzzle your guilt away with Sister Aloysius’ Delicious Citrus Marvel! This delightful tipple is a playful citrus twist on a communion favourite and the perfect blend of class with the crisp tang of Catholic guilt. Don’t you doubt for one second the deliciousness of this drink and the deliciousness of Meryl’s stunning turn as Sister Aloysius. Top up that goblet with Sister Aloysius’ Delicious Citrus Marvel and let’s enjoy the film based on John Patrick Shanley’s 2004 Pulitzer Prize winning play of the same name. Bonus: Us viewers have the pleasure of an authentic reinterpretation as Shanley adapted his own play script into his own screenplay and then directed his own movie. Well done sir.
Centred on abuse allegations of an altar boy by a priest (based on this Oscar nominated performance his name should be Philip Seymour AWESOME!), ‘Doubt’ follows the violent wake churning through St. Nicholas’ led by headmaster and nun extraordinaire, Mother Meryl. So here we are in the Bronx circa 1964 with the stunning Meryl Streep, Seymour-Awesome, Amy Adams and the ever exquisite Viola Davis. This janks is brilliant and we’re still on the title sequence so make sure and have a proper swig before the action starts. Prepare yeself because the cold wooden floor of the sanctuary is about to absorb each staccato step of delicious disciplinarian and headmaster, Sister Aloysius.
Sister Aloysius’ traditional views of child-rearing (ones I take very seriously in my own professionalism as an au-pair—you’re welcome mothers of W4) instantly clash with the secular ideas of hipster Priest Father Flynn (include ‘Frost the Snowman’ in the Christmas pageant? How dare you, you pagan rat bastard). And so, what is initially a worried allegation made by Adams’ Sister James concerning the relationship of altar boy Donald Miller and a priest, becomes the catalyst for the quickly unravelling spoken acrobatics of the duelling Streep and Hoffman.
The narrative of ‘what really happened to Donald Miller’ teeters on not only the doubt of the film’s characters, but of the film’s viewers. What then really happens to our constructed faith in power and supposed safety in institutions of both religious and secular affiliations? What happens in the silences we inflict and endure? Silence proves just as powerful and debatably more so than Father Flynn’s sermon on gossip. What breeds in the invisible acceptance of silence? A quiet threat with danger that simmers, right Father Flynn? He can bellow a sermon on danger of gossip but he can’t unplant the seed laid by Sister James then watered and nurtured by Sister Aloysius. The allegation made by Sister James is no more than seven words, questioning the safety of one of her students. But that’s all it takes—a few words blossom to doubt and doubt is all it takes. Suckers.
‘Doubt’ flawlessly articulates the often overlooked danger of silence through haunting paranoia. Paranoia’s infecting presence frame to frame illuminates the unsettling fact that an interrogation of the truths on which we build our lives, will one day inevitably be shaken. (Bonus Tippling: Take a drink every time there is a violent glare from Meryl to Philip—Philip to Meryl—Meryl to Viola—and Amy in her doe-eyed defence of Frosty the Snowman’s inclusion in the holiday pageant). But ain’t no habit that can keep Meryl down—she’s luminescent under that Catholic cap. Poignant. Terrifying. And now I have met the borders of the English language—when words are inadequate to describe Meryl Streep. She seethes, she rages, she fights for her faith against Father Flynn’s repulsively long fingernails and under the weight of that banging habit.
A film that could easily have overextended into the synthetic judgement and bias of a very culturally relevant topic—carefully whispers illuminating narrative not of a supposed crime, but simply of the doubt in everyone. Is Sister Aloysius really the dragon Father Flynn anoints her as? Is the acting “Mother Superior” of St. Nicholas protecting her chickadees with pure intentions? But at what cost—who is sacrificed at the hand of institution driven motivations? A harrowing example is the eight-minute scene between Meryl and Viola Davis’ Mrs. Miller (this scene alone is worth seeing the film for). And you’ll need a top up for this scene—it’s a punch to the gut in all sorts of ways.
Initial questions of ‘did he’ or ‘didn’t he’ seem to fade in the final confrontation of Streep and Hoffman in a tightly tapped out tango of accusations and unanswered questions. The story explored in this film is established and maintained in a brilliantly woven tapestry of questions: Did he do it or didn’t he? Are Sister Aloysius’ motives purely Christ driven? Is Amy Adams’ portrayal of Sister James really the second coming of Frauline Maria? And the biggest question of all; when the truth(s) we each hold dear are violently penetrated and defamed (by fear, vendetta, as ya do) what then? And if there’s one thing that will help answer a question, it’s a tip of wine.
In personal moments of doubt, I enjoy this Sister Aloysius inspired cocktail when I most need the advice of Mother Meryl. You know those moments when the well of inspired logic is painfully dry, those moments when you wake up in your next door neighbour’s hammock with two fox cubs laying next to you – or maybe you wake up in a hotel room near Embankment with a can opener in your bed and that temporary playmate (let’s call him “Patches”) long gone—these are the moments when Mother Meryl comes to me. Now, is one blasphemous to encourage a tipple during four utterly stunning Academy praised performances? I’m going to say no. (If you want true blasphemy as committed in an atrocious act by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, please see “Note”. And while we’re on the topic, could I be considered blasphemous when I recently gifted to my favourite Catholic a rosary with Amy Winehouse’s face on it? Precisely!) And so, these are the moments when this life-changing tipple will give you the haunting discipline of being sent to Sister Aloysius’ office. Because if there’s one thing Sister Aloysius taught me it was this, all is forgiven if you write your times tables five times.
So swig betwixt your Hail Mary’s, high-five the air and do a cartwheel in remembrance of Meryl’s 2009 SAG award for Best Actress. You did good girl. Tipple on, it’s what Mother Meryl would have wanted.
As Meryl was nominated for the 2009 Best Actress Lead Actress for ‘Doubt’, please have a shot of celebration along with your cocktail.
However, as are about to take said shot, please be prepared for Kate Winslet to run into the room, steal your shot (YOUR shot). And then, please do not be surprised when the room bursts into applause and acts like Kate Winslet deserved that shot. Is Kate Winslet a wonderful artist of her craft? A gem that deserves a shot? Absolutely she is. Is ‘The Reader’ a breathtaking film examining the monstrous terror of fascism? You betcha it is. Is it driven by a muted cinematic technical genius and breathtaking subtlety that could only be executed by stellar acting performances with the gorgeous Stephen Daldry at the helm? Of course it is. It’s a phenomenal film deserving a cornucopia of merit; but this ain’t about ‘The Reader’. This is about Meryl, so in turn—wait your turn Kate. Wait for your own shot and no cutsies in the queue please. This isn’t about Kate Winslet NOT having a shot, this is about Kate Winslet waiting her turn to have her own shot NOT during the year in which Meryl Streep was nominated for ‘Doubt.’ Think of it like this—if you’re waiting for your shot at the bar, and you’ve been waiting—I don’t know, say thirteen years at the bar—and Kate Winslet stomps up and is served her shot first. But she’s thirsty too! Of course she is, and she’ll get a shot too, in time. So how about you wait for your own shot Kate, don’t just roll up and snatch Meryl’s. And besides, as a bartender, you can’t just give out shots willy-nilly for Nazi portrayals. Well aside from ‘Sophie’s Choice’. But that was like, way different (sort of). And you can’t just take Meryl’s shot. I mean it’s Meryl Streep’s shot…ya know? ***