Over the course of her illustrious career, Meryl Streep has landed more Academy Award nominations (16 and counting) than any other thespian in history. Blessed not only with an enviable emotional range but a knack for feigning foreign accents and regional dialects, the versatile actress has repeatedly demonstrated an uncanny ability to disappear into whatever role she’s been asked to play.
Such is again the case with The Iron Lady, a comprehensive biopic about Margaret Thatcher, who served as prime minister of Great Britain from 1979 to 1990. The movie was directed by Phyllida Lloyd who previously collaborated with Streep in 2008 on Mamma Mia!
Meryl will undoubtedly garner another well-deserved Oscar nomination for her spot-on impersonation of the imperious icon’s public persona, from the pursed lips to the steely demeanor to the haughty tone of voice. She further rose to the challenge of a demanding assignment that also called for her to capture the character’s recent descent into dementia, a dotage which has ostensibly been marked by hallucinations and semi-lucid ramblings.
Unfortunately, Streep’s sterling performance here has been squandered in service of an overambitious screenplay by Abi Morgan which attempts to bite off more than it could possibly chew in less than two hours. As a result, the film fails to do justice to the touchstones in Thatcher’s life and career, tending to tease rather than address the material in depth.
Constructed as a series of flashbacks, it takes superficial looks at everything from her coming of age during World War II to her college days at Oxford to her marriage to Denis Thatcher (Jim Broadbent) to their starting a family to her developing a feminist consciousness to her entering politics. The bulk of the film’s focus is devoted to her tempestuous tenure at Number 10 Downing Street, a period marked by both domestic and international unrest courtesy of the Irish Republican Army and a war in the Falkland Islands, respectively.
Overall, this empathetic portrait paints the Prime Minister as a headstrong conservative as dedicated to her family as to her country. But by the film’s end, we really haven’t learned much memorably about Maggie beyond her enduring love for the devoted husband who died before her.
A potentially-underwhelming production elevated singlehandedly by another tour de force turned in by the ever-astounding Meryl Streep.
Very Good (3 stars)
Rated PG-13 for violent images and brief nudity.
Running time: 105 minutes
Distributor: The Weinstein Company
To see a trailer for The Iron Lady, visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yDiCFY2zsfc