The Iron Lady

November 22, 2012 at 12:14 pm | Posted in 2012 | Leave a comment
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◊ ½

DVD.  Well, I thought it would be fun to compare the portrayal of one seminal world leader by probably the best male actor of his generation (“Lincoln”) with the portrayal of another seminal world leader by the best female actor alive today.  Doing so has affirmed to me the supreme importance of a good script.  I would have once said that I could be happy watching a brilliant performance in an otherwise terrible film.  That is untrue, as it turns out.  “The Iron Lady” is such a terrible bore, even while the Iron Lady radiates from the screen.  The real problem with the film is that it spends criminally little time on Thatcher in her prime.  Unlike, “Lincoln,” which focuses on a short period building up to a major event in his presidency, “The Iron Lady” wanders through decades of her life, backwards and forwards, and (quite inexplicably) chooses to give the most energy to the least interesting periods of Thatcher’s life.  Fully half of the film focuses on her as an elderly, and increasingly demented, widow.  Much of the rest of the film shows us her childhood adoration of her father and her early years in politics, all played by another actress, who is adequate but hardly Streep.  The rest is a whirlwind tour of the Thatcher years, with seminal topics such as the Faukland War, the fall of the Berlin Wall, her relationship with Reagan, the IRA and her economic plans all given a few minutes each.  Why?  It is inexplicable to me.  Focusing on Thatcher as a feeble elderly woman reduces this to a story about anybody who has Alzheimer’s, rather than the pivotal and controversial person she was.  It would be like making “Lincoln” primarily about an adolescent boy who lied and fought and treated girls badly (as most adolescents do), while occasionally mentioning that he waged a Civil War and freed some slaves.  What an utter waste of a great performance.  When Thatcher in her prime is on screen, the film has real energy and potential but, just when momentum is building, the moment is stolen away.  This was an utterly, utterly frustrating movie.  The only redeeming quality that even lifts it to one and a half lozenges is the power of Streep’s performance.  It’s difficult to compare it to Day-Lewis’s because of the material but I think I can still say his was better, more nuanced, while hers was just slightly a caricature.  However, she brought a force of presence to her role that befitted the character. It would have been marvelous to watch her going toe-to-toe with sexist MPs over… well, anything really.  I wish I had seen that film instead.

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