Thursday 5 April 2012

The Iron Lady - Review

Still going strong, Meryl...
If the recent academy awards prove anything, it’s that Meryl Streep hasn’t given up. I mean, why should she? She’s intelligent, very talented and beholds a net value higher than half of Hollywood put together. But although her third academy award for ‘Best Actress’ was well-deserved, this film does raise an interesting critical point: how can a brilliant performance survive within such a heavy-handed film?
The Iron Lady encircles the life of controversial British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher who, although successfully winning almost four successive federal elections, was widely despised by much of the working class of England. Her extreme right-wing economic and social policies rocked the world and certainly drew up a new page in political conservative history. The film’s take on the political issues of Thatcher’s reign is somewhat disappointing. Although definitely avoiding the didactic, the pathetic thing is that director Phyllida Lloyd tries as hard as she can to be as politically and artistically persuasive as possible, but instead imparts a sense of uncertainty and a feeling that she (Lloyd) had no solid opinion on Thatcher at all.

This hindrance is particularly evident when Lloyd uses disgustingly stylised cinematic techniques to symbolically portray Thatcher’s emotions (in my opinion, you can stoop no lower than use obvious symbolism in a motion picture). Half the time the film presents Maggie as an emotional, thoughtful person and for the rest of the film she’s Hitler reincarnated. This is why the film was not merely being objective or un-biased, just hopelessly confused.
But Streep’s performance becomes all the more amazing as a result. Although the flashbacks, slow motion sequences, montages and symbolically chosen colours – yes, that’s right, symbolic colours – devalue the film itself and cause the work to seem all too desperate to make itself plain, Streep’s Thatcher doesn’t so much reason with the viewer then it does disclose. Rather than saying “Here’s my imitation of Thatcher’s persona, deal with it”, her portrayal subtly divulges a personal will and struggle of an infamous woman.

And it is here that the film earns merit.

Not only in Streep’s performance, but through the splendid supporting cast, the emotional and psychological background to Thatcher’s dominance takes precedence (as it should) in this sometimes surprising biopic. Although the director tried and failed to convey any kind of artistic or political perspective, the cast and decent writing return the film to gloriously solid foundations.

The Bottom Line: The Iron Lady is undoubtedly the Weinstein Company’s latest grab for a ‘Best Picture’ nomination (amongst its more successful The King’s Speech and My Week with Marilyn projects), but although a poor choice of director makes this impossible, a sound cast and script certainly bring to the film 
certain credit.

- Mr Critter

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