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The Iron Lady - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
The Iron Lady
Directing: B
Acting: A-
Writing: C
Cinematography: B+
Editing: C

Meryl Streep is in top form as ever. That's about the only great thing that can be said of The Iron Lady, a biopic of Margaret Thatcher that takes the ill-advised approach of focusing far too much on her final, apparently senility-laden days. It's a performance that is a joy to watch, but it's in a movie that veers consistently too close to tedium.

Clearly I oppose just about every major political principle this woman possessed. The way she's presented in this movie, I imagined my conservative parents revering her -- it would seem she was much like a female Ronald Reagan for the Brits. Still she strikes me as a dynamic, fascinating character. It's interesting that she should stand so successfully in the face of misogynistic opposition and still be so conservative. And Meryl Streep, indeed, makes her fascinating.

At least she does when she's playing her at the time of serving as Prime Minister, of which there is, inexplicably, not nearly enough. The plot structure here is a bit mystifying. The film opens with Thatcher, clearly much older than she was as Prime Minister (Streep, over 60 years old herself, in large amounts of old-age makeup), going to the store to buy a pint of milk. People around her fuss about this. They don't think she should be wandering off alone. Thatcher, naturally, thinks they're being ridiculous.

And then we see her meandering about her home, often talking to hallucinations of her late husband (the great Jim Broadbent), and having flashes of memory from her time in public service -- something that began in her mid-twenties. This is how the entire film unfolds: in these flashes of memory. We constantly return to the older Thatcher, possibly losing her mind, in a story element that is both clear conjecture and hardly relevant to the political career of Britain's only female Prime Minister to date.

Having a more straightforward, if not outright linear, approach to the telling of this story would be been far more preferable. As it is, the way the story unfolds, it's just distracting.

But: Meryl Streep commands the screen and totally embodies this character. This amounts to an Oscar-worthy performance in an otherwise not at all Oscar-worthy film, which kind of kills Streep's chances. She'll get a nomination, but based on the overall film, there's no reason to expect her to finally get her third win. Honestly, if it weren't for the presence of Meryl Streep, this movie would be a total waste of time. Some people will think it's a waste of time regardless.

A movie like this should really have more insight than speculation. It's a bit of a disappointment, after savvy marketers drummed up buzz based solely on Streep playing the character. I enjoyed the movie because of her, but still only in a fairly forgettable way. It's a mostly engaging glimpse into the life of this polarizing woman, but given her historical significance, more than just a glimpse should really have been offered.

Jim Broadbent and Meryl Streep are about the only things THE IRON LADY has going for it.

Overall: B-
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