The Iron Lady Review
By Bret Dorman
Here are three things we know going into The Iron Lady:
1) Meryl Streep is a good actress.
2) Biopics are usually pretty boring and generally pretty clunky.
3) British Politics involves people wearing funny wigs.
Coming out of the movie, I realized I learned nothing new.
Story: Margaret Thatcher (older version played by Meryl Streep) is an old senile lady, but she was once a young shop keeper’s daughter (younger version played by Alexandra Roach). Somewhere in the middle (middle version played by Meryl Streep) she was the Prime Minister of Great Britain. Also, British people talk funny.
Okay, so I am not the biggest Meryl Streep fan (probably because I haven’t seen a large portion of her body of work) but it’s clear here that she is one of the best in her line of work. And to be consistently at the top of your game is admirable. I don’t consider her to be a hero, role model, or inspirational but I can understand how aspiring actors/actresses do think of her that way. However, despite her performance, The Iron Lady amounts to a bunch of boring moments and odd choices.
For starters, I;m not sure if the movie was Pro or Anti Margaret Thatcher. There’s nothing wrong with making a biopic that highlights the good and the bad, but when a triumphant moment of Thatcher giving an inspirational speech for one her policies that turns out to be hated by everyone else and not work, it kind of sends a mixed message. So much of this movie is Thatcher doing whatever she wants and ignoring other people. It’s not a flattering quality for a leader nor is it something be should look up to.
There are plenty of scenes in this movie where Thatcher has to ‘make the tough decision’ then at home breaks down and wonder what it all is for? For some reason, she seems to be driven by gender. Because she is a woman she has been told she can not do something, so she goes at and does it. But just because she is dedicated and hard working doesn’t necessarily make her a good leader or politician. It seems she cares more about being right all the time than anything else.
Halfway into the movie, we learn something about one of the characters close to her that turns this movie into a straight up weird horror film. It’s like if Fight Club and The King’s Speech had a baby that was raised by G.I. Jane. Not only is The Iron Lady all over th place on what exactly Thatcher is and how she sees herself vs how her country sees her vs how the World sees her; the movie is all over the place in how to convey any of it as well.
As a youngin’ she dreams of being a politician just to prove that women can do it, but her speeches about her motivations are so bland and generic you wonder if she really believes it. As the Prime Minister she dreams of doing what is best for her country and at one point when a MAN! tells her about “war” she responds “I have done battle every single day of my life.” I get what they are going for… but come on, I think actual war and trying to get people to take you seriously are two different things. Also, her scene of writing letters to all the fallen soldiers’ families is awkwardly un-inspiring and another scene where she scolds her peers is awkwardly un-motivational. As older Margaret she is a crazily delusional lady who can’t let go of some of the past. The twist halfway in is about as out of place as song and dance numbers in an aids drama (sorry Rent).
The big question is why? Just like J. Edgar earlier in the year, the movie seems to be a obligatory highlight reel without being interested in motivations. For both movies, the script is the weakest part and chooses to cut back and forth from past to present for no reason other than that’s what some other one’s have done. Meandering and unfocused, I came out knowing just as much about Thatcher when I went in, which was very little. It’s hard to take such a long dense career as Thatcher’s and boil it down in 2 hours, so why try? Adam Kempenaar of Filmspotting suggested in their review that perhaps they focus on just one event, like the Balkan Islands Incident. I agree. Taking one event and making a dramatic arc while exploring all the ideas (Thatcher’s drive and her stubbornness) could say everything you want to say about Thatcher without just being a recap.
In Conclusion, a good performance by Meryl Streep is all you’ll get from The Iron Lady. It seems as though Thatcher doesn’t seem motivated to become Prime Minister because she enjoys her work or is good at it, but that she is good at giving bland speeches full of empty words about ‘doing the right thing no matter what!’ Life shouldn’t be about doing something just to prove people wrong, it should be about doing what you like and IF people tell you ‘no, because that’s just not how it’s done’ then you give ’em hell. It seems Thatcher and The Iron Lady never quite understood that…
Final Grade: D-