Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Genre: Drama, Biography
Opens locally Friday, January 13th, 2012
Run Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes, Rated PG-13
Starring: Meryl Streep, Jim Broadbent, Alexandra Roach
Directed by Phyllida Lloyd (Macbeth, Mamma Mia!)
The Iron Lady is a biopic on the famous historical figure, Margaret Thatcher, who was the first (and only) female Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. You'll hear a lot about this film (if you haven't already) due to the brilliant portrayal of Mrs. Thatcher by Meryl Streep, who seemingly gets Oscar nominations by simply appearing on screen. Here, she will have earned it. Unfortunately, her performance isn't enough to make the film worthy of anything more.
A good measure of a biographical film is how much you feel you have learned about the film's subject. The Iron Ladydoes provide a bit of light on the iconic leader, who is shown as having paid a mighty price for the power that she had yielded. But it's the angle in which the light is coming from that poses the problem. The movie is seen from the perspective of the modern day Margaret Thatcher, in her 80s and not in her right mind. As she is being cared for, she flashes back to different points in her career, giving us a glimpse at what has brought her to this current state.
Neatly, the flashbacks come in chronological order so that we can follow along. Sadly, much of what we see is a smear of seemingly important events. Many of them are clumped together in montages that don't serve to teach us much about what Margaret Thatcher meant, or who she was. We do gather that she was a pioneer and a strong woman, who rose to the top of a male dominated society at a time when women had their place in the kitchen. We hear of several events of which she had involvement, but rarely does the movie stop to let us in on why or how some of these events were important in the grand scheme of things.
As Michelle Williams embodied Marilyn Monroe's spirit in My Week With Marilyn, so does Meryl Streep embody the very soul of Margaret Thatcher. She is not imitating, but giving a brilliant performance of nuance and meaning. She may be the best actress of this or any other generation, and with each performance she solidifies the argument in her favor.
But The Iron Lady's odd choice of story angle isn't enough to rise above the boredom commonly associated with historical biopics. It's not like there are hundreds of Margaret Thatcher movies out there, and I for one would have loved a more in-depth take on her life and times. She is definitely an interesting figure, but her current state as shown in the film takes away from her powerful and inspirational story.
Still, Streep's take on the former Prime Minister is something that should be on everybody's must-see Oscar list, as her name will surely be among this year's nominees. Seek it out for a glimpse of this strong performance, and for a crash course on British politics of the 20th century. But don't expect to find too much on Margaret Thatcher.
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