[F]or the most part, Her Again is a measured, insightful, and quietly fascinating portrait, not only of Streep, but of her entire milieu. Schulman occasionally regards his subject with a breathless reverence, painting her as a sort of magical, unknowable unicorn of a person...But it’s hard to fault Schulman when his telling is informed by wonderful, strange anecdotes like these...
Written without the 19-time Oscar nominee’s participation (but with the help of more than 80 of her friends, colleagues, and still-fawning college boyfriends), the book’s narrow focus on Streep’s early life and drama-school days will not satisfy fans hungry for stories from Sophie’s Choice or The Devil Wears Prada. And the first hundred pages, in fact, read like a timeline of every college play in which the popular young blonde appeared...The book comes fully alive in its second half, gaining momentum as Schulman approaches his lacerating final chapter, which chronicles the making of 1979’s Oscar-winning Kramer vs. Kramer.
As a reader, it’s sometimes hard to root for Streep, who seems always to be the most beautiful, talented young woman in the room. Yet Schulman provides such vivid examples of the relentless sexism she faced, that Streep emerges as a hero both for speaking her mind and fleshing out two-dimensional female characters...The one oddity of Her Again is what it emphasizes and omits. Streep’s high school years drag out unnecessarily, and Schulman slows the action down when describing the Oscars where Streep won for The Iron Lady and for Kramer vs. Kramer, presumably for dramatic effect. It feels a bit artificial to dwell on these sections, only to cut the book short before Streep’s casting in pivotal films like Silkwood or Sophie’s Choice. And after his in-depth look at her relationship with Cazale, Schulman’s treatment of her marriage to the sculptor Don Gummer and her experience as a mother of four feels slight.
With no context, though, the title comes off as a complaint on the part of the author, who seems to dislike his subject for reasons unintelligible to his readers beyond the fact that she is Meryl Streep, and she is generally considered to be one of the most illustrious American actors of her generation: still working, still transforming herself physically, still winning prizes. Irked, the author sets out to discover why she’s still here. But, as he is an unauthorized biographer, Schulman’s direct access to those who know Streep best is spotty. And as a result, the reminiscences of a former high school boyfriend receive an inordinate amount of weight, and the author leans heavily on published interviews and articles by others to come up with a leapfrogging 'explanation' of how the New Jersey high school cheerleader Mary Louise Streep became the award-laden actor she is...This is an odd, peevish book — but certainly not an uninteresting one.
Caveats aside, Schulman has written an engrossing examination of Streep’s background ... Working within the limitation of not actually talking to her, Schulman is good at showing how meticulously Streep worked before and after that quick rise to build her craft ... Schulman is lucky that Streep has given thoughtful interviews over the years, and he quotes from them extensively. He also interviewed some friends, colleagues, and former boyfriends. Yet the book, indeed, ends up feeling a tad thin.
Schulman writes beautifully but laces many of his observations with snark ... The book's best chapter is about the making of Kramer vs. Kramer, about how costar Dustin Hoffman goaded Streep into using her grief about Cazale to play her role ... I would say this chapter justifies buying the book, but Schulman's tone is so annoying I'll say this: Go to the library and read that chapter excerpted in the April Vanity Fair and save yourself $26.