Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Iron Lady (Rhoades)

“Iron Lady” – A Spot-on
Portrayal of Margaret Thatcher

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

The Oscar for Best Actress is going to be a close race between Meryl Streep (“The Iron Lady”) and Michelle Williams (“My Week With Marilyn”). I’m betting on Williams. Streep already has two golden statuettes and 15 nominations. Williams doesn’t have one yet, her performance is deserving, and Academy voters still feel sad about Heath Ledger.
That’s not to say Meryl Streep’s not worthy. She literally transforms herself into Margaret Thatcher for “The Iron Lady” – now playing at the Tropic Cinema.
This biopic about Great Britain’s former prime minister is drawing fire from Thatcher supporters, claiming the film shows the Iron Lady in a bad light. It does, somewhat, but perhaps not inaccurately.
Yet, I side with the protestors in not liking how the film is handled. Meryl Streep’s brilliant performance aside.
Director Phillida Lloyd (“Mama Mia!”)  accomplishes what she set out to do, but the approach makes the film more about a dotty old lady than a fiery female politician, perhaps England’s greatest prime minister since Churchill.
The viewpoint of “The Iron Lady” is from the latter years of Margaret Thatcher, her career ascendancy seen as flashbacks of memory. In her old age she’s not all there, seeing and talking with her dead husband, thinking she’s still in power, not sure where her grown children are living, confused.
Therefore, we witness little of the steely personage that earned her the Iron Lady accolade. What glimpses we do have (slashing the budget against the advise of her ministers, waging war on Argentina, imposing her will on her cabinet) are fleeting memories.
If “The Iron Lady” has a message, it’s that people don’t thank you later for making the tough decision. At best you get a statue, then shunted off to the side. That’s the core of I-know-I’m-right Thatcher’s sadness.
The makeup team deserves an Oscar for transforming Meryl Streep into Thatcher – both young and old. While the twentysomething Thatcher is portrayed by lookalike Alexandra Roach, the prime minister during her active political years and in retirement go to Streep. With a promanent overbite and swept-back hair, the physicality is astounding. And Streep masters the King’s English like a native Brit. Right down to Thatcher’s shrieking tone.
Jim Broadbent deserves kudos as Thatcher’s jaunty (if dead) husband Dennis. And the supporting cast is solid, although relegated to the sidelines.
Don’t try to compare Streep’s Thatcher to William’s Marilyn. Both are phenomenal performances. But Academy Awards are not really based on Best. The voting is more an exercise in mass mindset, a crowd mentality. Which actor or actress is most deserving? Who was passed over last year? Whose time is it? Who’s best liked this year? Whose competitors have already been rewarded?
So my bet’s on Michelle Williams.
But despite my iron-willed opinion I could be wrong.

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