Sunday, January 15, 2012

Film review: "The Iron Lady" (2011)...and brief commentary on the Globes

Congratulations, Meryl Streep on another Golden Globe win. I'm not super surprised. Of the three major awards, I feel this was by far the best chance for Meryl to win. After all, it's given by the Hollywood Foreign Press, and The Iron Lady was about a Brit and produced by European companies. SAG and Academy voters might also feel less hesitant to vote for Viola Davis now that Meryl has been recognized with the Globe. Not that Meryl doesn't stand a chance, but again, the odds for an Oscar win are still slim in my opinion. But here's hopin'. Now on to The Iron Lady.

This has been a helluva long time coming. Ok, I love a good montage, but holy shit. The film is essentially a series of flashbacks of Margaret Thatcher at age 86, mildly senile, grappling with the task of emptying the closets of her husband Dennis's things (played by the wonderful Jim Broadbent), seven years after his passing. It takes us through several decades, from her teenage years in her father's store to her ascension to Prime Minister of Great Britain. I'm not a film director, so I guess I'm not sure how I would've accomplished this without montage after montage of major past events, but after a while, we kinda got it. And the triggers that brought up her recollections tended to be a little cheeseball and predictable.

Despite that, this is probably the most impressive performance I've seen from Meryl in a leading role in fifteen years, particularly shining when playing Thatcher at 86. The nuances of speech, posture and gait are all fantastic. Yes, yes, she masters the Received Pronunciation flawlessly, but we know that's small potatoes for Meryl. If one has ever seen Margaret Thatcher speak, it's difficult to not just shake your head. Meryl just nails it.

Broadbent was great, with most of his scenes basically as a hallucination of the elderly Thatcher. But let's be honest, this film was Meryl front and center the whole way. The overall movie was by no means a masterpiece. Cripes, it's only Phyllida Lloyd's second film. One cannot, however, contest the fact that a story was sensitively told about an old lady, a population that Meryl has correctly pointed out as practically invisible in our over-sensationalized western culture. That's why I was most impressed by Meryl's scenes as the older Margaret. This was my favorite scene:

Probably a pretty conservative message, but I kinda like it and it was delivered brilliantly. As a bit of an aside, during the scene of Thatcher's final departure from 10 Downing Street, they played a beautiful excerpt of Maria Callas singing "Casta diva" from Bellini's Norma (I prefer Renée Fleming's version, but whatev). I'd like to second Lloyd's sentiment that if Meryl doesn't win the Oscar for this film, it's difficult to know how it'll ever happen. I don't necessarily agree with that 100%, but it's not going to get any easier, especially with the picture perfect campaign Harvey Weinstein (or "God," as Meryl referred to him in tonight's acceptance speech), has Mfashioned for her this season. Regardless of your politics or typical film-going tendencies, if you enjoy a good performance, go see The Iron Lady. Soon.

1 comment: