Seemingly every year, audiences and critics rally around the new Meryl Streep film, chanting up and down the block that her work is mesmerizing and demands to be seen. They are always right.
Whether the actual narrative built around and within Streep is compelling, remains more of a mixed bag. Her latest work vying for a potential Oscar nomination – if all goes kosher, her 17th – is “The Iron Lady”.
Chronicling Margaret Thatcher’s rise from timid, insecure school-girl to conservative, authoritative Prime Minister of the U.K., “The Iron Lady” aims to encapsulate the soul of one of the 20th century’s biggest figures. What is its plan to go about doing this?
Well, director Phyllida Lloyd of “Mamma Mia!” seems to believe that having Streep bellow non-stop political monologues is the way to go. Lloyd rarely possesses the confidence to slow things down to simply allow the characters play off one another, instead depending on monologues and rapid-fire political montages to try and sculpt a plot. And when she does, its a series of repetitive conversations between Thatcher and her long-dead husband (via grating hallucinations).
“The Iron Lady”s low budget, cited by Streep jokingly in a recent awards-acceptance speech, comes across really strongly in every aspect of the film, from the rushed Thomas Newman score, to the sets, reminiscent of a TV movie, to the awkward, clumsy lighting. Were it not for Streep, this would be on Lifetime.
“The Iron Lady”, in theory, should have been a dynamic exploration of what makes a great world leader tick. We emerge from the film, however, not caring so much about its main character, but how good the make-up looked on Meryl Streep. “The Iron Lady” reduces one of the 20th-century’s most dynamic figures into an accent, prosthetic teeth, and red lipstick. An amazing feat of shallow reductiveness, that in having nothing to say, in turn, leaves me with very little to say. D