Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Iron Lady

Today I saw The Iron Lady, starring Meryl Streep and Jim Broadbent.

Margaret Thatcher is one of the most polarizing political figures in modern history. Her reign as Prime Minister of England from 1979 to 1990 was notable not only because she was the first female elected to the office, but because she lasted so long in the role.

Revered by some and reviled by others, Thatcher is portrayed in a balanced light in this film by the always-amazing Meryl Streep. She shows the passion and conviction of a woman who truly believed in her decisions (as I think Thatcher did), and also the abusive monster she could be toward her staff. Sadly, most of what we see is her present-day self, shuffling around in a cloudy state of confusion.

In fact, that's my largest criticism of this movie. I went into it expecting a run-of-the-mill biography of the politician's life. Instead, I took a—sometimes first-person—journey of dementia, which not only dampened he impact of the story, but added a layer of sympathy that I'm guessing the real woman would detest.

It was almost as if the filmmakers laid the illness on so thick so the Thatcher haters couldn't attack it (or her) too much. It would have been more powerful if they had just told her story in a linear way, start-to-finish, with a title card at the end explaining her current state. Her life was interesting enough to warrant two hours without the last decade even being acknowledged.

That said, there is nothing wrong with Streep's performance. I grew up in the Thatcher-Reagan era and remember hearing the real Iron Lady speak often on television. Streep's diction and accent were insanely accurate, as were her mannerisms and expressions. And who doesn't love Jim Broadbent playing anyone's husband?

The movie was indeed paced well, despite way too many present-day/hallucination scenes, and it may prompt those who loathed the leader to remember her with a little respect, even if her choices for the country are never forgiven.

I will be very surprised if Streep doesn't add another Oscar to her shelf for this performance.


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