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Movie ReviewsRating: 4 of 5 yaps

The Iron Lady

“The Iron Lady” is a fairly standard biopic containing an extraordinary performance. That it is by Meryl Streep is not surprising; I’d say she has made a career resurgence in her 50s and early 60s except she never really experienced a lull. Streep arguably occupies the place where Morgan Freeman sat 15 years ago: America’s greatest living film actor.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences might as well give her a nomination now. This would be her 17th Oscar nod, a number so astounding its impact is dwarfed only by the fact that her last win was in 1983, for “Sophie’s Choice.”

Based on her riveting, spot-on turn as British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, I’d say her dry spell for taking home golden statues may well come to an end.

I often feel that with movies of this sort, containing a performance that is so dominating and full-bodied, the film around it tends to suffer. Like Jamie Foxx in “Ray” or Philip Seymour Hoffman in “Capote,” Streep’s gravitational pull is so powerful, story arcs and secondary characters tend to get sucked into the vortex.

Only Jim Broadbent, giving his own golden-caliber turn as Thatcher’s long-suffering husband Denis, is given time to add more than perfunctory notes.

Most films about politicians tend to shy away from the politics — especially when they don’t sync up with Hollywood’s leftist tilt. Director Phyllida Lloyd and screenwriter Abi Morgan make the bold and, I think, proper choice to put Thatcher’s Conservative party ideals front and center to the story.

The movie isn’t a diatribe for right-wing political conclusions but shows how Thatcher’s self-reliant upbringing and tendency to demand the best of those around her colored her way of thinking. In an age awash in self-reflection and where the slacker mentality is idolized, this portrait of the vinegary Thatcher and her stern exhortations has a sort of bracing throwback freshness.

“It used to be about trying to do something,” an elderly Thatcher complains to an admirer. “Now it’s about trying to be someone.”

The story unspools with old, doddering Thatcher reflecting on her life in flashback. Alexandra Roach plays young Thatcher, a grocer’s daughter who ran for Parliament at age 24 (and lost). Over time, though, she gains standing until she believes it’s time to run for leader of her party — not because she thinks she can win, but because she wants to bolster ideals she believes have grown flabby.

In the modern sections, Denis Thatcher has long been dead, but Margaret still talks to him (raising great concern on the part of her handlers). On a conscious level, she knows he’s not there, but her soul so aches for his companionship that she refuses to dismiss his apparition.

Ever the chameleon, Streep is made up to resemble Thatcher rather closely, including that famous swoop of helmet hair. She gets the iconic voice just right, a squeaky goose’s honk that she employed to scold and argue her point. Once scene, showing her receiving vocal training in preparation for her national campaign, has (deliberate?) similarities to 2010′s “The King’s Speech.”

I thoroughly enjoyed “The Iron Lady,” or more rather I enjoyed watching Streep embody Thatcher with a convincing mix of steel and velvet. This is a movie that contains greatness, though it never quite reaches it.

4 Yaps

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5 Responses to “The Iron Lady”

  1. Megan says:

    This movie is definitely worth seeing even if you have no interest in Margaret Thatcher’s life story. Meryl Streep has such an unbelievable gift – she can play any character and suck you right into the story! Definitely a must see!

  2. misgie says:

    I was not going to see this film as I was not a fan of either Meryl Streep or
    Margaret Thatcher however, I did enjoy Meryl in "Its Complicated" a different look @ her I also enjoyed this review I changed my mind I will see it now…….. Thank you Chris Lloyd

  3. Nina Y. says:

    Prior to taking in Christopher Lloyd’s review of The Iron Lady, I had every intention of seeing the film. Ever since first becoming aware of Meryl Streep through her early work in The French Lieutenant’s Woman and Sophie’s Choice, I’ve been a great admirer of her great gift and proficiency in her craft. As stated, I had every intention of seeing the film. We all surely know how intentions can fall by the wayside. "I’ll wait until I can rent the video." "In a few months, it’ll be on cable anyway. I’ll catch it then." This review, much like an artfully written description of a delectable meal or a lovely fragrance, has the ability to draw one in. Upon reading it, my sense of urgency has been piqued and my appetite whetted to see for myself some of Ms. Streep’s finest work. Touche! You sold a ticket.

  4. Karen Cohn says:

    I love any movie with Meryl Streep! Her age has nothing to do with her acting! She will always be great in my book!