Thursday, February 23, 2012

30 Days of Oscar Day 29: The Iron Lady

Movie: The Iron Lady
Year: 2012
Nominations:  Best Actress - Meryl Streep, Best Makeup

Wins/Snubs: Hard to say - Streep won the Golden Globe, but Davis won the SAG award, so this could go either way.   As for makeup, it's impressive, so hard to say.  It's up against Harry Potter 7.2 and Albert Nobbs.  Since HP hasn't been nominated before, perhaps it will take it, especially since the period pieces might split the vote.  However, it is a really impressive achievement in makeup.

When I was growing up Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher ruled the world, as least as far as I knew.  So I was familiar with her global reputation, but less so with her ratings at home or her rise to power.  Sadly, even after seeing this movie, I only know slightly more about the Falklands war and the fact that she now has dementia.  The movie made the fatal flaw of any biopic - trying to tell us so much, they leave us with nothing.  

Margaret Thatcher (an unrecognizable Meryl Streep) is living with a debilitating dementia, and much of the movie is shown as flashbacks, from her childhood as a shopkeeper's daughter to her first failed attempt to run for office and ultimately her life as Prime Minister.  She also marries Dennis Thatcher (an amazing Jim Broadbent), who supports her and has now begun to haunt her dementia after his death.   The problem with trying to just show us her entire life is that they can't show a full picture of any part of her life.  Yes, she was the first female Prime Minister, but she wasn't the first female Member of Parliament, yet the movie doesn't show any others.  They gloss over that entire concept by showing an ironing board in the ladies room and business being negotiated in the men's room.   Yes, she had to navigate a new path to be taken seriously as Prime Minister and had consultants advise her.  That idea is shown entirely in a discussion of pearls and a lesson on lowering her voice so as not to be "shrill".  There were some interesting moments about her struggles going to war and making decisions both as a mother and a Prime Minister.  

Meryl Streep did a terrific job in this, and as much as I LOVED The Help and Viola Davis, I wouldn't be disappointed to see Meryl win.  However, I do think Viola should win as she took a role and elevated the movie with her performance.  Meryl took a role and did a good job despite the movie.  

One of the annoying things I do when a movie is dull or shallow like The Iron Lady is I sit and think of ways they could have done the film in a way I might have enjoyed more.   Jim Broadbent's performance as Dennis Thatcher was fascinating.  He was a man in the 1960s who was able to support a wife who became the most famous woman in the world for a time.  They had a long, mostly successful marriage.  When he's haunting her, he's funny, bullying, kind, rude, and everything in between.  I think telling her story through his eyes would have given us more of the story - we see really well how she ended up, but the story of how she got there just wasn't well done.  My alternative movie His Iron Lady would have shown us what she was like at the END of the day deciding to send troops to the Falklands and how he felt about nearly being blown up at a hotel by the IRA because he was the Prime Minister's husband.  I thought his story was much more interesting and would have given a direction toward telling the important parts of her story.  A disappointing attempt to tell a story that I really want to hear.  And since this always pisses me off - the trailer on IMDB shows the course of her life, but not a single moment of her present circumstance which is about 2/3 of the film itself.  Argh. 2.5 of 5 stars/lambs

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