wogma rating: Add to “To Watch” list, watch some day (?)
The Iron Lady stands more as a celebration of Meryl Streep, arguably one of the finest actors we have today. She acts with her eyes, whether she plays an old woman distraught with dementia, or a powerful, long-standing politician. As a biopic, however, the film falls flat without a tone or a message. It’s a mere play of facts with no binding thread. Watch the film for Streep alone.Read more
Ever since I saw the trailer of The Iron Lady, I couldn’t imagine anyone else but Meryl Streep play Margaret Thatcher. In my head, with whatever little knowledge I had about the politician, I thought it was brilliant casting, to get someone as able as Streep to play an ambivalent character as hers.
This thought stayed with me after I walked out of watching the film. I struggled to place Thatcher’s real face. All I could think of, was this one shot of Streep as Thatcher with her husband Denis Thatcher (played by Jim Broadbent), as they stand behind a podium, dressed in blue, with their hands held up together in victory. Streep sold me the visual picture.
Using flashbacks as its main narrative device, The Iron Lady traces Thatcher’s journey from an unknown British woman who went to oxford, and slowly, through the course of her marriage and twins, finds her way into politics. We whisk through her accomplishments, through a series of montages.
We also periodically keep intercutting to the present day, where we see an older Thatcher, battling with dementia, as she has make-believe conversations. We are shown flashbacks of her courtship days with her husband, and archival footage of the British political past. It’s a slow progression however; one that not necessarily follows a particular motif.
The biggest problem with The Iron Lady is the absence of direction of the script. The film attempts to capture all of Thatcher’s life in 2 hours, but as is the case with every biopic, a flavour is necessary; or what is popularly known as a peg. We are shown her involvements in major historical events (A war in Argentina, her invasion of the Falkland Islands, etc). But it goes wrong in its flat, lifeless portrayal. The graph of her political career would have been more interesting had we been shown the impact of her professional accomplishments on her psyche, her loved and mostly on her rivals.
No other character has been paid attention to, while Streep gives the performance of the year. While Jim Broadbent as Dennis Thatcher is gripping, Streep is the clear show-stealer. She takes on the voice, accent, demeanor, and powerful-eyes of Thatcher – this film has nothing else going for itself. She captures the confusion and nuances of a person suffering from dementia perfectly, and you’re able to sit up in awe when this is intercut with glimpses of her longstanding political career.
The Iron Lady would have been a much more impactful film has the script managed to hold our interest. Instead, we end up getting confused about the tone of the film, and the message it wants to convey. It is merely a document of dull facts being played out one after another, and the use of flashbacks have not been justified.
Was the Oscar worth it, is a question that this film cannot answer. Streep has given a powerful performance, but because the film doesn’t bind it together – I personally prefer her in The Devil Wears Prada. Watch The Iron Lady for Meryl Streep alone, though if you miss this one, you won’t really be missing anything.
This article is by guest author Swetha Ramakrishnan. Swetha Ramakrishnan is currently living and working in Mumbai. She's a self-confessed film enthusiast and can most likely be found talking to anyone and everyone about popular cinema and her love for SRK. Swetha Ramakrishnan also blogs at http://swetharamakrishnan.blogspot.com/.
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