Monday, April 30, 2012

DVD Review: The Iron Lady

If I had to come up with a word to describe The Iron Lady, it would be 'letdown.' It's not just that I dislike Margaret Thatcher (though I do), because that doesn't matter: I liked Game Change and that was about Sarah Palin. But that was an interesting story, uniquely told and well presented. This story, while it has the potential to be highly interesting, is...let's say not. But it could have been.

I'm not gonna bother going into the story too much, partially cuz the movie isn't too concerned with it either. Margaret Thatcher, Britain's first female Prime Minister, highly controversial, loved by the Right, hated by the Left, blah blah blah. And while that may seem like an odd way to sum up the life of one of the most important women in history, for better or worse, that's essentially how the movie ends up presenting her.

Thatcher, as the movie presents her, is less a fully realized person of nuance, and more her own Greatest Hits Record. We move through all the big moments (Garbage Strikes, Terrorist Attacks, War in the Falklands etc.) very very very quickly, with little to no time devoted to anyone other than her. We see the events, we see someone getting angry at Thatcher, we see her yelling some talking points and then BAM we're onto the next scene. The result of this is to strip the characters and events of any nuance and default to worshipping Thatcher. Both the film, and the person, would have been better served by both giving us more time to see why people were angry at Thatcher and more time explaining why she thought she was right. As it is, the film as a whole feels hollow and thinly written.

This all seems to be the result of an oddly extended 'modern day' sequence involving an aging Thatcher being symbolically 'haunted' by her dead husband (Jim Broadbent). Most of the good acting goes on during this segment and the film manages an interesting portrayal of Alzheimer's disease, but because it, like the historical segments, is abbreviated, it leaves both halves feeling oddly thin and empty.

Yes, Meryl Streep's performance is good, but that's nothing new and she's given better performances elsewhere. There are other interesting performances, notably from Jim Broadbent (given the interesting task of playing, what amounts to, a wacky ghost) and Anthony Stewart Head. But none of that is enough to make me willing to give this a recommendation. If you're an impossibly huge fan of Meryl Streep or Margaret Thatcher, then you've probably already seen it. If you're not? You should probably give it a miss.

Elessar is a 22 year old Alaskan born cinephile and he thinks the handling of Thatcher's husband is one of the weirdest directorial choices I've seen in a while.

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