There’s a scene from Sex and the City’s fourth season where Carrie finds herself in the Vogue office, a place where she was not qualified to be seeing as her only employment credentials to date were a 400-word column once a week in a newspaper—a newspaper! But that’s beside the point. She shows up to Vogue and quite swiftly, editor Enid Frick, played by the radiant Candice Bergen, tells Carrie the truth for once in her life: “We’re not looking for Vogue according to your agenda. No one cares about your agenda.” Carrie is crushed, as she should be, because Enid is right.
But the line itself, and Enid’s whole character wouldn’t have worked, if not for the impeccable comedic timing and all-around bad bitch aura of Bergen. She ate Carrie up, just like she ate Sandra Bullock up in Miss Congeniality, and ate Reese Witherspoon up in Sweet Home Alabama. Most recently, however, she ate Meryl Streep up in her own fucking movie, Let Them All Talk.
Let Them All Talk, which recently debuted on HBO Max, stars Meryl Streep as an award-winning author who is more than slightly disturbed. At the start of her career, she used the lives of her friends, played by Candice Bergen and Dianne Wiest, for artistic inspiration, then promptly abandoned them as she vaulted into the upper echelons of literary high society. But on a boat trip to England where she will accept a prestigious lifetime achievement award, she decides to reunite her old friends, much to their surprise. On the voyage, she is joined by her nephew, played by Lucas Hedges, and is secretly hounded by her new literary agent, played by Gemma Chan.
The cast is certainly what I would call a “tour de force.” While Chan and Hedges might be seen as relative newcomers, when put up against the collective filmographies of Weist and Bergen and Streep, they hold their own and have more raw talent between them than most other actors. But at its core, this is Streep’s vehicle. And for that reason, I was all the more pleased to watch Bergen hijack it from her.
My very first experience with Candice Bergen was, like most people my age, through Miss Congeniality, which used to play in a loop on cable. She was glamorous and exciting, which was a winning combination for this young faggot. Sweet Home Alabama soon found its way into my mom’s VHS (or was it DVD by that point) collection, and she would put it on to babysit my siblings and me. Then Bergen was in Sex and the City, and then in Bride Wars, and only later did I go back and watch Starting Over and Live for Life and Murphy Brown and Getting Straight. But really, there just isn’t enough Bergen in the world for me.
Let Them All Talk is perfectly delightful, but it’s Bergen’s performance that binds the whole thing together. She plays Roberta, whose troubled life was the inspiration for Alice’s (Streep) Pulitzer Prize-winning fiction. Where Alice leads a life of seeming whimsy and wonder, Roberta finds herself stuck in a dead-end retail job 35 years after she last saw her old friend. She blames her troubles on Alice, who she believes determined the dismal trajectory of her life. Where Alice has also found what appears to be meaning to her existence, Roberta is wholly dispossessed and desperate. She spends most of the cruise looking for rich, similarly desperate men with whom to entangle herself in the hopes she might enjoy a windfall and escape her dreary retail existence. No spoilers, obviously, but things don’t work out the way any of these characters expect.
Again, I just can’t stress enough that while this is obviously Streep’s movie, Let Them All Talk shines because of Bergen. With more than 40 starring roles to her name, I find it an atrocity that she hasn’t received even an Oscar nomination since 1980. Her last BAFTA nomination was in 1983, and her last Golden Globe nomination was also in 1980. Is anybody even paying attention?
Streep will probably be nominated for Let Them All Talk, because that’s just what the Academy likes to do. Lucas Hedges will certainly receive some sort of nomination because the voting body loves white men, and Gemma Chan will continue to be criminally underutilized in film and television. But at least for Bergen’s sake, after what is ostensibly one of her best performances ever, can somebody please give this woman her fucking Academy Award come January!