Thursday, January 26, 2012

FILM REVIEW: The Iron Lady

The Other Half and I finally saw Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady, on the MLK holiday. As expected, it is an acting tour de force from La Streep, definitely worthy of an Oscar. As expected, Streep was received her record 17th Oscar nomination (14th as Best Actress) this week. She already has two Oscars (1982's Best Actress, Sophie's Choice; 1979's Best Supporting Actress, Kramer vs. Kramer) at home but it's been nearly 30 years since her last win. Come on, people, she's the greatest actor of all time, so she should have the highest award for excellence in film acting, the Academy Award.

Anyway, the particular vehicle which Meryl Streep is using to attempt to win her 3rd Oscar is a biography of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. It really is pretty incredible source material. It seems like a cliche, but sometimes truth is really harder to believe than fiction. A person who was the daughter of the owner of a greengrocer becomes the first female head of state of one of the countries who have a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council, in other words, one of the world's superpowers. And she ends up becoming the longest serving Prime Minister of her country in the 20th century.

The screenplay is by Abi Morgan, and is somewhat unconventional. Most of the story is told as flashbacks from an elderly (and clearly mentally infirm) Lady Thatcher after she is no longer Prime Minister and is still daling with the death of her longtime husband Denis Thatcher from a decade before.
Denis is played well by Oscar-winner Jim Broadbent. The make-up on Meryl is stunning, so that not only is she doing an incredibly accurate impersonation of Margaret Thatcher as we remember her from the 1980s, but also a very believable look as a very old woman. We are used to seeing Meryl disappear into her characters, so one doesn't think one is seeing Meryl Streep on screen *acting* but instead one is following the travails of her character. The Iron Lady is another one of those cinematic experiences.

The sections of the film which follow Thatcher's rise to power and depict some of her important  moments in power are the high points of the film and are quite exciting. The problem is that they are bookended by returns to the present day with a portrayal of a feeble-minded, depressing Thatcher as a lonely, needy old woman. The acting is impeccable throughout, despite despising Thatcher's politics, Streep makes your empathize with the humanity of her situation. In fact, the film is surprisingly apolitical, mainly including politics to show Thatcher's consistent philosophy without ever really questioning its impact on people and effectiveness.

Overall, The Iron Lady is worth seeing for Meryl Streep's astonishing performance as well as an  interesting excursion through 1980s Great Britain.

Title: The Iron Lady.
Director: Phyllida Lloyd.
Running Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes.
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for some violent images and brief nudity.
Release Date: January 13, 2012.
Viewing Date: January 16, 2012.

Plot: B-.
Acting: A+.
Visuals: A-.
Impact: B+.

Overall Grade: B+ (3.50/4.0).

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