The Iron Lady (2011)

The Iron Lady (2011)
  • Time: 105 min
  • Genre: Biography | Drama | History
  • Director: Phyllida Lloyd
  • Cast: Meryl Streep, Jim Broadbent, Anthony Head, Richard E. Grant


Elderly and a virtual prisoner in her own home due to her concerned staff and daughter Carol, Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s first woman prime minister, looks back on her life as she clears out her late husband Denis’s clothes for the Oxfam shop. Denis is seen as being her rock as she first enters parliament and then runs for the leadership of the Conservative Party, culminating in her eventual premiereship. Now his ghost joins her to comment on her successes and failures, sometimes to her annoyance, generally to her comfort until ultimately, as the clothes are sent to the charity shop, Denis departs from Margaret’s life forever.

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  • The Iron Lady all but confirms that Meryl Streep is an acting goddess. It is easy to lose count the number of times she has been nominated for an acting Oscar since her breakthrough film, The Deer Hunter (1978), for almost every other year her name would likely be on the list.

    Not the decade’s biggest surprise, Streep has been nominated again for her role as Margaret Thatcher in this Phyllida Lloyd (Mamma Mia!, 2008) film. Her last Oscar win was for Sophie’s Choice (1982). Now that’s quite a long time. All eyes are on the Academy if they will give Streep her third Oscar.

    The Iron Lady is a film of immense potential, a film that ought to easily capture the hearts of moviegoers alike, like The Queen (2006) or The King’s Speech (2010). Alas, it is one of the year’s biggest disappointments. To be honest, it is a convoluted mess. It tries to be smart, but trips up and falls flat to the ground.

    Not to be confused with the Luc Besson film, The Lady (2011), a biographical feature on that great, freedom-fighting woman of Burma, The Iron Lady takes a look at United Kingdom’s first woman Prime Minister, and the price she paid for power.

    Streep’s performance is breathtaking, but it is a real shame that the film is not. It is a pity to see such a great actress starring in a mediocre film. But first the plaudits. The hair, makeup, and costume design are impeccable, capturing Thatcher with unnerving accuracy.

    Moreover, Streep makes us forget that she is an American playing a British icon. That’s how astonishing she is. It is only in a scene when Streep’s Thatcher sees the real Thatcher on television, and questions why she looks different that we consciously come to realize the difference.

    We will also come to realize that the film seems to be going nowhere after the half-hour mark. The Iron Lady gets off to a slow, drabby start that seems never-ending. We see Streep playing an old Thatcher with signs of dementia, and after twenty-odd minutes, we still see Streep playing an old Thatcher with signs of dementia.

    Only that the signs are more worrying. You see, she hallucinates that her dead husband, Denis (Jim Broadbent), is still with her. The entire film centers on this recurring theme, and it is very agitating to see Denis pop up here and there as if he was the clown from It (1990).

    What we want to see is Thatcher when she was in office, her struggles, her victories, her verbal battles against the opposition, her personal life etc…yes, all these are depicted in the film, but without any clear focus. And when things start to shape up, the film cuts abruptly and returns to the Thatcher & Mr. Clown show.

    And shockingly, it does this many times. Fortunately, Streep’s performance make this a passable film. Still, The Iron Lady doesn’t win our hearts. It doesn’t know whether to take itself seriously or not. And most annoyingly, it tries too hard to do both.

    Verdict: Even the great and venerable Meryl Streep cannot save this film from the clutches of mediocrity.

    GRADE: C- (5.5/10)

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