Sometimes actors can win Oscars for roles that they aren’t necessarily brilliant in just because they’ve been passed over for much more deserving parts over the years for a variety of reasons. Meryl Streep’s third Oscar win for The Iron Lady is a lot like Al Pacino’s win for Scent of a Woman, the most famous of these types of wins. She might not have been necessarily brilliant in the part but had been significantly better in other roles she wasn’t recognized for that winning again had to have happened. That’s about the best explanation for The Iron Lady, a role that earned Streep an Oscar after a handful of roles she should’ve won for.
Streep stars as Margaret Thatcher, who would make history as England’s first female Prime Minister. Told in flashback form, from her current state as a dementia ridden old woman to showcasing her entire life in politics, The Iron Lady, one of Thatcher’s nicknames, showcases Thatcher’s political career that went against the grain in nearly every way. Showcasing Streep as a younger Thatcher for the bulk of her career, Streep is aged and de-aged with makeup to play Thatcher for most of the film’s running time. But the problem is that this isn’t a brilliant performance from Streep, or a good one either.
It’s kind of comical for the most part, albeit an unintentional one. But that’s not from Streep for the most part; it’s from a film that just isn’t that good in nearly every faculty.
Streep nails all the little things about Thatcher, from the way she spoke to the subtle part of her accent. Streep inhabits the way Thatcher handled herself on an almost surreal level. In terms of capturing the public essence of how Thatcher handled herself Streep does a marvelous job. But the problem is that we don’t get much insight into Thatcher as a person through Streep, the conduit.
For a film that garnered as much awards for Streep’s ability to ape how Thatcher carried herself, and got the little things down, we don’t get any real insight into Thatcher’s existence. She accomplished something extraordinary and pioneered paths for women in Britain that some never thought possible. We don’t get any real insight outside of a cursory look at Thatcher’s life.
The Iron Lady is a nice start but there’s no insight. We see the events of her life but there’s no grander context; there isn’t a theme or tone tying them together like a good biopic does. It’s one thing to see Thatcher as a doddering old woman, and then see her in her glory years, but there’s no grander context to it.
This isn’t a grand tale of how old age robs us of the glory of your youth, which seems to be Phyllida Lloyd’s grander scheme. There are some slight attempts at connecting this but there’s no vision. The Iron Lady ends up being a pedestrian biopic about a woman who had life significantly more than ordinary.
There are a handful of featurettes about some of the events of the film, as well as a generic “Making of” documentary. A Digital Copy of the film is included as well.
If you want to know more about Margaret Thatcher there are better documentaries out there about her. If you want a nice cursory view this is it.
Anchor Bay presents The Iron Lady. Directed by Phyllida Lloyd. Starring Meryl Streep, Jim Broadbent, Alexandra Roach, Olivia Colman, Harry Lloyd. Written by Abi Morgan. Running time: 105 minutes. Rated PG-13. Released on DVD: April 10, 2012. Available at Amazon.com.
Tags: Jim Broadbent, Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady