Roush Review: At the Golden Globes, Streep Stops the Show With Pointed Speech About Trump

Matt Roush
Meryl Streep
Paul Drinkwater/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

'Twas just another benign and forgettable night at the Golden Globes, where the presenters occasionally had to shush a rowdy and soused audience that could barely be bothered to pay attention to the mostly banal proceedings. Who could blame them?

And then: La Meryl took the stage. Dame Streep, as Viola Davis proudly introduced her.

RELATED: Golden Globes 2017 Red Carpet Arrivals (PHOTOS)

Accepting the Cecil B. DeMille Award for her body of work, the most revered and respected of movie stars, and eight-time Globes winner, Meryl Streep stunned the Beverly Hilton ballroom into awed silence as she spoke of the artist's "privilege and the responsibility of the act of empathy," in stark contrast to what she described as the "one performance this year that stunned me." She was speaking, without saying his name directly, of Donald Trump, and "that moment when the person asking to sit in the most respected seat in our country imitated a disabled reporter, someone he outranked in privilege, power and the capacity to fight back. It kind of broke my heart," she said with muted power, claiming to have lost her voice "in screaming and lamentation this weekend."

She continued: "I can't get it out of my head because it wasn't in a movie. It was real life. … When the powerful use their position to bully others, we all lose." Streep went on to challenge her listeners to support the Committee to Protect Journalists, and ended with a quote from "my dear departed friend, Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher): 'Take your broken heart, make it into art.' "

This was more powerful than any movie, because it was real life. True emotion. Actual empathy. Truth to power in the flesh. A tirade from the elite? Hardly. (Streep opened her speech by noting the often modest, and undeniably international, roots of her peers.) This was an outpouring from the soul.

RELATED: Tom Hiddleston Remembers Carrie Fisher Following His Golden Globe Win for The Night Manager

Lest you think the night was all heaviness and hand-wringing, there were light and bright moments—though too few supplied by the toothless host, Jimmy Fallon, whose La La Land-inspired opening production number stumbled by dipping once too often into the bromance well with Justin Timberlake as his dance partner. (Much funnier was the resurrection of Stranger Things' Barb in a pool as the new Esther Williams.)

Fallon's monologue got off to an embarrassing start when the teleprompter malfunctioned and he choked. Then it got worse when his scripted jokes included a weak Chris Rock impersonation (setting up a so-so O.J. gag). Fallon's performance grew more strained as the night wore on and on, culminating in an inane riff on presenters Jessica Chastain and Eddie Redmayne's rhyming last names. Hosting shows like these is often a thankless task, but this was just sad.

The funniest, freshest bit: Kristen Wiig and Steve Carell presenting the animated film category, solemnly recalling the tragic days they saw their first animated movie (hers was Bambi). Goldie Hawn reprising her dithery Laugh-In persona alongside Amy Schumer was also a treat.

The worst: Sofia Vergara joking about an "anal" tradition of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

The awards themselves were the usual mixed bag, with several lovely speeches by La La Land's Ryan Gosling, Fences' Davis and Atlanta's Donald Glover, in particular. Can't really comment on the movie picks, as the volume of TV has kept me from seeing most of the front-runners yet. But the Globes voters went their usual unpredictable way in the TV categories.

RELATED: Golden Globe Awards 2017: Complete List of Winners

While The People v. O.J. Simpson for limited series and its star Sarah Paulson were no-brainers, who would have guessed three of the four acting awards in the limited-series arena would go to AMC's escapist The Night Manager? A more pleasant surprise: the wins for FX's boldly original Atlanta (comedy series), its star Donald Glover, and black-ish lead comedy actress Tracee Ellis Ross making a claim for TV's diversity. Netflix's The Crown was a popular choice for best drama, ditto its luminous star Claire Foy, though John Lithgow as Winston Churchill will have to wait for the Emmys (or maybe the SAG Awards later this month) for redemption. Billy Bob Thornton's win as drama actor for Amazon's relatively under-the-radar Goliath underscored how times have changed in the industry, with streaming shows reaping multiple awards and former darling HBO completely shut out.