The Iron Lady: If only the movie could have matched the acting or its subject

The Iron Lady – 2011

Directed by Phillida Lloyd
Starring Meryl Streep, Jim Broadbent, Anthony Head, Richard E. Grant, Olivia Coleman
Screenplay by Abi Morgan

Meryl Streep is one of the world’s greatest actors.  She has the skill to so immerse herself into her character, it is touching to your very core.  I feel honored to be witnessing her skill through much of The Iron Lady, even if the questionable approach had me wondering if they were trying to impress, or depress.  The greatness in her performance is almost lost in the delivery, which bounces from time to time in her life, forward and backward, from a starting point of the late Prime Minister’s bout with dementia.  It could be seen as an unconventional method if it weren’t just so plain sad.

The director, Lloyd, takes about as far an angle away from her first effort, Mamma Mia, as one could for a followup.  Where that film excelled in its sheer joy of the lightness of the material and the exceptionally pop-perfect soundtrack, this one is muddled, between gloom and triumph.  What does one want us to think about a person’s triumphs, when she begins blazing her trail by ignoring the pleas of her children who run along side her car, begging her not to go?  To show the last days of one of the most accomplished leaders, it is unique to see her caught between grief and joy for what she may or may not have given to her family.  It seems somewhat unbecoming, however, when one of the film’s major characters (Broadbent’s Denis) is an apparition of the mind with dialogue that is purely of the filmmaker’s creation.  Sure, she had visions, but I am not sure I trust anyone but her to know what the visions were.

Other than the remarkable Ms. Streep and the delightfully complete performance by Jim Broadbent, there are literally no other fully fleshed characters in the entire film.  There are people who do stuff that is nice, and people who do stuff that is not so nice.  There is no real sense of time or place.  Just musings of this time or that time, happiness, regret, stubbornness and surrender.  In the end, I have precious little information gained from viewing this story about Thatcher.  There is no compelling urge to believe any of it.

All of this should not detract from the performance.  Streep is truly without peer in this film.  If you’ve been on the fence about her for these years like I have, now is the time to jump in and just enjoy her, before it’s too late.

(*** out of *****)

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