Most helpful critical review
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The movie that nearly started a war
on March 13, 2012
When I think about this movie I am filled with a sense of inner conflict.
On the one hand I am highly impressed with Meryl Streep's performance, for which she has at long last and deservedly won her third Academy Award after a 30 year gap, and after being nominated for the Academy Award a record seventeen times.
Once every two years she is nominated for an Academy Award. Only Katharine Hepburn has more with four.
Other directors have made movies about our leading political figures. Often these movies are not flattering portraits. Oliver Stone made a satirical comedy about G W Bush, which I found highly entertaining, somewhat of a caricature. Michael Moore made a far more scathing movie Fahrenheit 911. Then we have Primary Colors where where John Travolta played a played a Presidential candidate much like president Clinton. Stone also directed Nixon, a somewhat sympathetic picture of a character many regarded as villainous. Even though these portraits were not flattering you could detect some love or least amusement for the subject.
Now with Iron Lady, we have a movie which defines its subject through the lens of disease, presumably Alzheimer's, although it never states the exact disease. The movie starts out promisingly enough with Thatcher, the grocers daughter, buying a bottle of milk, unrecognised and confused at a local grocery store.
Streep conveys every nuance of Thatcher extremely well. The actor truly becomes the character, capturing, the tone, the accent, the gestures, the body language impeccably.
What happens though, as you continue to watch, too much of the story is frittered away on depicting Thatcher as she is now, her disease, imaginary conversations with her long dead husband, living in the past, with occasional flashbacks, to the significant events of her political life, the romance with Denis, her rise to power, the various crises while she was in office, terrorist attacks, the Falklands War, the H Block protest, which escalated the tensions in Northern Irealnd, and so forth, and ultimately her fall from grace.
I found this focus on defining the character by her disease extremely annoying and tiresome, and a huge mistake by the screenwriters to spend almost 50% of the time focusing on the disease while while forwarding through the significant events. The Faklands war is compressed to about five minutes. The H Block protests last about thirty seconds.
I lived in the UK for the latter part of her leadership. Her insistence on an unpopular tax was the beginning of her downfall, and the cause of her being deposed as leader through the usual shenanigans. Here again we have very short treatment of what could have been great drama in favor of promoting the disease.
When this movie was released several months ago in Argentina, it reportedly escalated tensions in Argentina. A journalist in the Falklands made an unflattering comment about the current female president. There were threats of invasion, and death threats against the journalist. It appears that she knows how to work the situation. Thankfully, this movie did not start a war.
Iron Lady could have been a much better movie with a shift in focus away from the disease.
Recently, I listened to an interview Streep did on the (NPR Fresh Air program), shortly before the Oscars. It was fascinating to learn how she puts together a character, and how she captured all those aspects of Thatcher's voice and rhetoric, the vocal coaching Thatcher underwent to moderate the strident early vocal style. How Thatcher had enormous lung power. People would wait for a break in breath to interrupt, but she would just keep going, much to their frustration. It discussed Streep's entire career. It was extremely well researched. Catch it if you can.
I think most people will appreciate Streep's performance, but probably will not like the movie overall. I will not watch this movie again. I hope that future screenwriters and directors will have more sympathy and sensitivity for their subject than this.
If not for Streeps performance this would be a one star review. Her longtime hairstylist also won an Oscar for this movie.
Hope this was helpful.