Sunday, January 15, 2012

‘The Iron Lady’ captured by Streep

‘The Iron Lady’ captured by Streep

Review by James Colt Harrison

Meryl Streep is definitely the Bette Davis of the 21st Century. She has a knack for playing strong women (The Devil Wears Prada) and women of character. Streep can pick up an accent easily and can speak like a native of Australia, England, Denmark, Italy, Poland and points between. She has been awarded with the Oscar®, for which she has been nominated about 16 or 17 times. Streep was most recently honored with the lifetime achievement from the Kennedy Center Awards this past December.

Tackling the part of Margaret Thatcher, the former Prime Minister of England in The Iron Lady, was challenging, indeed. For Streep not only played the strong British politician as a woman during her prime, but she also captured Thatcher as an old woman suffering from dementia.

Streep doesn’t simply don a wig and put on a fake nose to become her characters. She actually becomes them with voice inflections, bodily movements, ticks, warts, and all, and makes the audience think she is actually the character and is not merely playing a famous woman.

The film is rather balanced in showing one of the most divisive women of the 20th century. She served for almost 12 years as Prime Minister, and there were an equal number of supporters as those who loathed her. Director Phyllida Lloyd (Mama Mia!) took an even-handed approach which satisfies neither lovers of Thatcher nor her detractors. Lloyd preferred a soft touch approach to her subject. But Lloyd had to show Thatcher as both a bully of monstrous proportions and a world-class leader. Streep, of course, is magnificent in showing both sides of the lady with equal ease.

With the use of flashbacks and flash forwards, Lloyd shows Thatcher during her dotage in her 80s when she is suffering from the loss of her faculties. She dotes on her husband (Jim Broadbent) and makes him breakfast, even though he passed away more than a decade before. The scenes with Broadbent turn Thatcher into a real human being with frailties and a heart. Streep, in her old age make-up, is touching, and brings more than a tear to one’s eyes.

Yes, there is a little ”fire and music” (a tip of the hat to Bette Davis in All About Eve) in the film when the great lady uproots the British Empire with her astounding policies that knocks the stuffing out of everything the Brits held dear, She attacked the unions, financial deregulations, public spending and any manner of money squandering to upset the rest of the government. Streep steps up to the job and shows her own “fire and music” when going up against all the other politicians who are against her.

As often happens, Streep is a better show than the movie. There is a more delicate approach to the subject taken by director Lloyd than perhaps the subject matter deserves. It could have been more hard-hitting considering the lead character and the events that affected much of the world. But Lloyd was probably looking at it from a female point of view, and that is legitimate as well as any other view that may be taken. Different strokes for different folks might apply here. The film is definitely one of the better made films of the season and should rank high with audiences. Is there perhaps an Oscar® nomination in the cards for Streep?

The cast also includes Alexandra Roach, Roger Allan and Richard E. Grant. The Weinstein Company.

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