I need someone to help me out with The Iron Lady. While watching it, I was reminded of most dreams I have. My dreams are typically a series of events that start and end without warning. New characters are brought in with no introduction and zero context, the narrative is non linear and nonsensical, and in the morning, I try my best to piece it all together.
That’s the exact experience I had with Phyllida Lloyd’s flawed Margaret Thatcher film. The movie is 105 minutes long, and I think I was able to follow about 10 of them. I’m a pretty sharp guy. And when it comes to movies, I’m shaper than Hattori Hanzo’s steel. My point is: I pay attention in films; it is very difficult for me to not “get” something. But I honestly hadn’t the slightest clue what the fuck was going on in The Iron Lady. It’s a muddled, discombobulated mess that ranks among the very worst biopics I’ve ever seen.
When it begins, Thatcher (Meryl Streep) is old and decrepit, and, as it turns out, certifiably schizophrenic. At home, despite being surrounded by several aides and caretakers, Thatcher divulges in extended conversations with her husband, Denis (Jim Broadbent), who has been dead for years. They eat breakfast together, poke fun at each other, and so on. I don’t know a whole lot about Margaret Thatcher, but The Iron Lady makes it sincerely look like she has gone insane. Is this true? Is she completely nuts? (I’m not being sarcastic here, I honestly do not know.)
The film spends equal time cutting back and forth between Thatcher talking to her dead husband, and her rise to political power several decades earlier. The dead husband stuff is pretty straightforward, but no less engaging. The flashbacks of her younger years are the scenes that went straight over my head. No supporting characters are introduced and no context is ever given to any scene, it’s as if Lloyd and screenwriter Abi Morgan (who co-wrote Shame, my favorite script from 2011), assumed viewers had an innate, insider’s perspective of British politics in the ‘80s. I don’t give a shit about the politics of my own country, let alone one I do not reside in. So for politically apathetic people like myself, a film like The Iron Lady needs to make its points clear and moderately assessable, in a way that is (hopefully) fresh.
I suppose Meryl Streep’s second place Oscar status (directly behind Viola Davis) is to be expected. But does her performance really merit it? Not in my eyes. Many people have praised Streep’s performance as a “flawless impersonation.” Since when is an impersonation sole grounds for an Academy Award? Yes, I’m fully aware how many actors have won Oscars for playing real life people. Some of those performances justified awards, others did not. Good make-up and a lot of yelling isn’t enough. Where’s the substance, the cohesion – where is the movie that doesn’t make me feel like I’ve awoken from a bad dream? D-