Feb 22, 2013

[Movies] The Iron Lady (2011)

I'm a big Meryl Streep fan - and no, that's not just a gay thing. You don't need to be queer to appreciate what a stellar actress she is and the unique quality she brings to any role that she performs. She has a most stellar career in the entertainment industry and it's no wonder that she collects acting awards like some people collect stamps.

I have no excuse for having waited this long before getting around to watching this movie. There are only so many geeky things that I can juggle at a time after all and somehow this movie slipped by me longer than I had anticipated.

But I was eager to watch this movie since (1) I love Meryl Streep and (2) I can certainly respect the legacy of Margaret Thatcher. My debating days had me researching a lot about world politics and her reign as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom isn't exactly something that you can ignore. And to have such an amazing actress bring her to life is certainly a unique theatrical experience.

Synopsis: The Iron Lady is a 2011 biographical film directed by Phyllida Lloyd with a screenplay by Abi Morgan. The movie was highly nominated, but of course I will draw your attention to the fact that Meryl Streep won most of them including the acting awards for the Oscars, the BAFTA and the Golden Globes.

The movie sort of begins at the "end" - or in this case the more "modern" period of 2008. Margaret Thatcher (Meryl Streep) was pretty much retired from the public scene and is hardly recognized by anyone. It is revealed that she continues to talk to her late husband Denis (Jim Broadbent), which is really a creation of her dementia. As she goes about her day and tries to go through her husband's things, she finds herself re-experiencing her past in a series of flashbacks.

Thus we see her humble beginnings as Margaret Roberts (Alexandra Roach) who initially works in the family grocery. Over time she is inspired to make more of her life and manages to get into Oxford. After her schooling, she then manages to break into politics and becomes the sole woman to get into the Tory party and manage a seat in the House of Commons. Thus we go back and forth between her somewhat bleak future and her glorious path as we follow her journey to the top until she becomes Prime Minister.

It goes without saying that Meryl Streep totally nailed her performance. I mean seriously, even without knowing what awards she had won for this particular role, I still would have said that no one else could have done it better. This goes beyond just capturing vocal inflection and the odd expression or two. As far as I'm concerned, she truly became Margaret Thatcher for the duration of the movie.

But it sort of goes downhill from there.

When it comes to biographical features, especially about public figures with so much controversy around them, you sort of expect the filmmakers to have a particular angle or view that they want to represent. Movies like The Social Network were based off of a particular biography and thus depicted a particular view of the events. Even The Queen had a particular perspective that they wanted to convey in terms of the life of the monarch.

I can understand the goal here, perhaps, was to just show us her life and let us come to a decision for ourselves. However given they opted to start with depicting her declining mental state and to contrast that with her golden years did make for an unusual premise. And in terms of her time as Prime Minister, we mostly just watched her succeed against all odds when her time as Prime Minister had a lot more negatives that could have also been presented. Are we just being led to believe that the movie is solely from Thatcher's perspective, and thus we only see the parts that she liked and not the less likable stuff? The speculation goes on and on.

But you cannot argue that this was, in fact, still a good movie that perhaps relied a bit too much on the acting skills of Meryl Streep. If you had taken her out of the equation, I doubt the movie would have had the same emotional impact on the viewer and so it just heightens how an average script can become lackluster in contrast to such a brilliant performance.

The Iron Lady is an remarkable movie to add to Meryl Streep's already rich library of films but may be otherwise unremarkable compared to other biographical movies. Thus it can only rate 3.5 moments of a younger Thatcher practicing how to modulate her voice out of a possible 5, and that's rating is entirely carried by Meryl herself.

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