Plenty

Meryl Streep in another soulless performance; she plays a British heroine of the French underground in World War II who can't accept the postwar return to banal prosperity and slowly goes mad. Skipping forward through time, David Hare's screenplay (derived from his stage piece) struggles to make a not very convincing link between the heroine's anxious maladjustment and the decline of British fortunes, yet it is as drama that the film must function first of all, and the hopscotching structure prevents any one situation from being explored in depth or any given emotion from achieving its full flower. Director Fred Schepisi (Roxanne) seems miscast for this claustrophobic collection of drawing-room confrontations and tortured psychologies: most of the film consists of handsome, well-balanced wide-screen compositions that relate not at all to the protagonist's desperate sense of alienation, though when Schepisi takes his camera outdoors the sudden expansiveness is magical. But the ultimate blame for the film's lack of body must lie with Streep, who never succeeds in melding the components of this showy part into an accessible characterization. With Charles Dance, Tracey Ullman, John Gielgud, Sting, Ian McKellen, and Sam Neill.

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