Smell of Popcorn

film reviews & musings by Max Lalanne


Review of The Iron Lady (2011)

Posted by Max Lalanne on April 28, 2012

Rather, when we first see Margaret Thatcher (a heavily makeup-ed Meryl Streep), she’s a dithering, dementia-sticken old lady who hallucinates that her late husband, Dennis (Jim Broadbent), is still alive and whose daughter (Olivia Colman) regards with oddly non-understanding eyes, as if she saw her deteriorating mother only once a year. Margaret lives in a gray, modestly gloomy apartment surrounded by photos and tapes and various miscellanea of her epic life, which serve as good starting point for lengthy flashbacks to commence and helps muddle up Margaret’s mind even more. 

Once the flashbacks start, though, you wish they weren’t constantly intercut with more scenes of old Margaret observing them and that they just stayed in one time and place – for at least 20 minutes or so. Quickly edited, sharply moving sequences start introducing us to Margaret Thatcher, her love for her newfound husband, her struggle to enter a male-dominated political government, her meteoric rise all the way to prime minister, and her struggles (the Falkland Islands crisis is just one of the pulse-pounding incidents while she was in power) while ruggedly maintaining her position  – while frustratingly intercutting back to old Margaret staring fondly at some dusty photo while an annoying hallucination of her husband blabs incessantly behind her. The Iron Lady jumps back and forth, exploiting and exhausting every  single flashback the filmmakers could fit in there, throughout the whole film. And it becomes, honestly, distracting and annoying.

Thankfully, for The Iron Lady, the totally astounding Meryl Streep is there. There’s been so much conflicting brouhaha around her performance which was doubled – no, tripled – when Streep took home the Best Actress Oscar over The Help‘s Viola Davis, that prior to watching the film you are just like, “Okay, Meryl Streep is obviously gonna be pretty good, duh, because she won that Oscar.” But shut up and listen to me, because Streep here truly pulls off a magical achievement that was unparalleled and she deserved all the praise and awards she received. When she’s not caked up in unflattering old-age makeup like she is for a great majority of the film, Streep is allowed to really nail her role with powerful spirit and damn good acting, that is truly superb.

A more diminutive title like Maggie would’ve definitely worked better, in my opinion, because no matter how they try the story structure prevents The Iron Lady from truly living up to its name – this ends up not being a film about Margaret Thatcher’s impressive full life and career, but instead a slightly depressing if sweet story about a frail old lady trying to get rid of ghosts. Good thing for us, then, that old lady is Meryl Streep.

My rating: 2 1/2 stars (out of 5)

One Response to “Review of The Iron Lady (2011)”

  1. J-L M said

    I agree Maggie and Dennis could have been more truthful. But the Iron Lady title drew a much wider audience.

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