The Iron Lady movie poster
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The Iron Lady movie poster

The Iron Lady Movie Review

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Objectively, Meryl Streep is the greatest actress in the history of cinema. She has been nominated for 17 Academy Awards. She's won twice. What few people realize is that her last win was for Sophie's Choice, 30 years ago. She is so good that people take her for granted, shrug off her performances as "typical Meryl Streep" good. With The Iron Lady, her "losing" streak should come to an end, as she has even outdone herself.

Streep plays Margaret Thatcher, former prime minister of England, a woman known for her determination and, among her many accomplishments, stubbornness. Over the last few years, she has suffered from Alzheimer's disease.

The Iron Lady is set in modern day as Thatcher attempts to fight the disease that is eating away at her sharp mind, and convince others that she is still capable of managing her own affairs. Meryl Streep is nearly unrecognizable as an old, slow-moving woman who suffers from hallucinations. The makeup work, also nominated for an Academy Award, is phenomenal, some of the best ever seen. But her transformation is not solely due to makeup and prosthetics. Streep's performance is among the best of her career and easily one of the best performances ever put to film.

Unfortunately, the rest of the movie doesn't live up to the bar set by the revered actress. Director Phyllida Lloyd and screenwriter Abi Morgan have created an adequate film, but they dwell far too long on Thatcher's later years. Much like the disappointing J. Edgar (only with much better makeup and better performances), The Iron Lady skims over the most interesting aspect of Thatcher's life: her career.

Thatcher's rise to power and her political achievements, as well as her brushes with death (namely a close call from an IRA bomb), are featured in flashbacks presented as fading memories of a dwindling mind. While Streep shines best playing an old, suffering woman, the movie as a whole works best in the past.

Lloyd and Morgan commit the sin of hubris, somehow convinced that audiences want to sit in a theater for two hours watching an old woman talk with her dead husband (played convincingly by Jim Broadbent) rather than focus on her many achievements in life. Streep is terrific, but the present day scenes are dull and monotonous, especially after the first fifteen minutes. Clint Eastwood committed the same sin with J. Edgar, opting to focus on the FBI director as an old man struggling with homosexual tendencies rather than going the more interesting and entertaining route of showcasing the man's career. Margaret Thatcher is an intriguing woman. Why only show her at her worst?

Meryl Streep knocks her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher out of the park, but The Iron Lady is otherwise forgettable. A more conventional approach to Thatcher's life would have been much more effective, and more entertaining. As is, The Iron Lady is boring, a term that would never be used to describe the woman.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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