Meryl Streep brings Oscar cred to this biopic, but Margaret Thatcher never really comes to life in The Iron Lady....
Anchor Bay / 105 Minutes / 2011 / Rated PG-13 / Street Date: April 10, 2012
Meryl beat Viola for Oscar two months ago, but one thing is for sure: Neither of the films these actresses starred in were really all that great. The Help was fascinating in terms of how it energized the zeitgeist, but as a narrative, it was flat and never fully convincing. The Iron Lady, on the other hand, is even less imperative, a movie that feels so painfully paint-by-numbers that any nuance that might lie within Streep's acclaimed performance is all but wasted.
And then there's the matter of that very performance. Meryl Streep is clearly one of our generation's most talented and ambitious film actresses, but while there is a sheen of calm, collected development within her take on Margaret Thatcher, I'm of the mind that even the magic that is Meryl can't salvage The Iron Lady. Between her Margaret often coming across as caricature rather than true performance and the movie around her concretely underperforming on all fronts, the movie misses the mark. Hard.
The film's Oscar-winning makeup is impressive and quite fooling - as an aged Thatcher looks back on her life, a transformed Meryl gives a true and vivid feel to the biography at hand - but aside from technical prowess of the film's convincing production design and wonderful costumes, The Iron Lady feels forced and rigid, like it's constantly having difficulty going through the motions of addressing the tale at hand. Thatcher remains mesmerizing as a polarizing 20th century political figure, but in The Iron Lady, as a figure she never quite comes into focus.
At the end of the day, The Iron Lady has this to offer: A unique and striking performance by Streep (not her best, but laudable, of course), some punchy supporting turns (Jim Broadbent, as her husband, especially), and an excellent attention to detail in terms of production look and feel. The film's script is negligible at best and its direction (courtesy of Mamma Mia! helmer Pyllida Lloyd) milquetoast, which makes the bulk of The Iron Lady almost a chore to get through. There's a legitimately profound biographical tale in here somewhere, but The Iron Lady certainly doesn't tap into it.