Movie Review: The Iron Lady

Mike Finkelstein wants to run for office so he could make this country a better place. For some inspiration, he decided to watch a film about a woman who did just that. Instead, he just started to develop a British accent. Here is his review of “The Iron Lady."

Mike Finkelstein wants to run for office so he could make this country a better place.  For some inspiration, he decided to watch a film about a woman who did just that.  Instead, he just started to develop a British accent.  Here is his review of “The Iron Lady.”

PLOT: A look at the private and professional lives of former United Kingdom Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (Meryl Streep), including her upbringing, her marriage to Sir Denis Thatcher, and her time at 10 Downing Street.

Check out the trailer:

MIKE’S REVIEW:  Margaret Thatcher is a woman who deserves her own movie.  The struggles in her life leading up to 10 Downing Street, the struggles during her time as Prime Minister, and the struggles she’s had to deal with after being forced out of office are all beautifully dramatic and noteworthy.  Yet despite such a life, some beautiful cinematography, and some great acting, led by a career defining performance by Meryl Streep, THE IRON LADY lost its focus, as well as its impact, somewhere along the way.

While other biographical films focus on a few specific instances in the extraordinary lives of our subject, THE IRON LADY spreads itself way too thin.  Starting with Thatcher’s acceptance to Oxford, we seem to fast forward through her youth, and her fight to not just end up as another housewife and “die washing a cup” (a mindset she keeps throughout her life).  We move into the British Parliament, and finally to 10 Downing Street, where we encounter fights with unions as well as her own cabinet, mentions of interactions with Ronald Reagan, and the Falklands War.

By the end of the film, what had hoped to be a recalling of all the triumphs and tribulations of one woman has turned into almost a quick bullet point recap.  Most characters of opposition were so barely fleshed out, that they all seemed to be grouped together in nameless resistance.  Even the method of storytelling—using numerous news clips and archival footage of actual events—caused most events to just blend into one another.  Don’t get me wrong…the cinematography is beautiful, but it’s hard to even tell what opinion Phylida Lloyd wanted to give off about her own film…was Thatcher a hero, or a stubborn, flawed hopeful?  We don’t really know.

With all that, we realize that initial hints of trouble are apparent in the first five minutes of the film. Our first encounter with Thatcher finds her old and senile, seeing images of her dead husband, Sir Denis Thatcher.  She is now a shell of the powerful, dedicated woman she once was.  Yes, the relationship is cute and the framework is a good device to really focus on the couple’s love (more on that later), but it’s almost not fair to take a woman whose who life was dedicated to being and doing something, and imagining that she may be reduced to absolutely nothing.  I almost felt cheated, both as an audience member, and for a woman that I felt I just came to know.

But forgetting everything else I wrote, we have to mention the one aspect that everyone will be talking about: the acting.  It is a force to be reckoned with.  Meryl Streep is yet again in a league of her own.  She disappears completely into Thatcher, both in voice and body, and is almost a sure thing for this year’s Best Actress win (although, I’m sure that has been said about 16 times before…).  Jim Broadbent is adorable as Sir Denis Thatcher, and the two play off of each other beautifully, making it almost impossible not to love them.  Somehow, that dream-like state of love was also able to transfer over to their younger counterparts, Alexandra Roach and Harry Lloyd, who also romanced us with the couple’s early years.

THE IRON LADY is a film that wants to do justice to it’s subject, however, falls flat by overreaching.  Yes, it has an absolutely amazing cast led by Meryl Streep going yet again for the gold statuette, but sadly, such amazing performances does not necessarily make an amazing film.  If only there were more direction and focus, this could have been a great biopic, but instead, it will only be remembered for some beautiful performances (and probably as the film that finally got Streep her Oscar).

GRADE: B

Mike’s LIKES:

1) MERYL STREEP: Meryl Streep is in a league all her own.  The woman can play any part, and here, she disappears into the persona of Margaret Thatcher.  Be prepared for her to get some sort of Oscar nomination, and quite possibly, the win.

2) JIM BROADBENT: While he came across almost creepy at points, Broadbent played Sir Denis Thatcher beautifully.  He was humble, cute, loving, and overall just a teddy bear of a man and a rock to his wife.

3) ALEXANDRA ROACH: I don’t know Ms. Roach well, but she deserves special mention for her role as a young Margaret Thatcher.  She, just like Streep, disappeared into her role, and I dare say matched her older counterpart’s performance.

Mike’s DISLIKES:

1) PAINTED AS SENILE: I’m still not sure what to make of this storytelling technique.  You’re trying to tell the story of one of the most powerful women in the history of England, and you focus on her mind faltering at an old age.  Instead of celebrating the greatness of a woman, it’s almost like we were meant to see all that torn away.

2) “MY SHOES”: Yes, I get it was probably supposed to be a little lighthearted moment in an otherwise tense situation, but the line takes away from the seriousness of what happened to Thatcher at that time.  Not a necessary ten seconds.

EXTRA FACTS:

1) In preparation for her role, Meryl Streep sat through a session at the House of Commons to observe British MPs in action.

2) While preparing for the role, Meryl Streep had said: “The prospect of exploring the swathe cut through history by this remarkable woman is a daunting and exciting challenge. I am trying to approach the role with as much zeal, fervour and attention to detail as the real Lady Thatcher possesses – I can only hope my stamina will begin to approach her own.”

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