Monday, February 6, 2012

The Iron Lady

By s. Monday, February 6, 2012 , , , , , , ,
25/100 (105 min, 2011)
Plot: A look at the life of Margaret Thatcher, the former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, with a focus on the price she paid for power.
Director: Phyllida Lloyd
Writer: Abi Morgan (screenplay)
Stars: Meryl Streep, Jim Broadbent and Richard E. Grant

Blue lady and the high price of milk

I'm going to say this upfront - "The Iron Lady" is not only among the worst movies of the last year it has the script and editing so horrid, it's even worse than what was the worst part of last year so far - Keira Knightley's horrible performance in "A Dangerous Method" which was so bad it nullified everything decent she did in her career to this point. I can't watch "Atonement" anymore without fearing Knithley's jaw will start its freaky break dance any second.. Getting back to "The Iron Lady" - I'm not even sure what  I hated more - the awful script or the editing which prevented Meryl Streep to turn her acting efforts into actual performance.

I have never held a movie camera in my hands nor I ever edited a film but I believe even I would made "The Iron Lady" better. Instead of spending more than half of the movie on pointless Oscar-bait moments with older Thatcher which apparently worked since the movie's sole two nominations are for leading actress and make up. I would just keep the scene where she talks with her husband, who isn't there. If the director focused on linear narrative, showing first young Thatcher, then her time as Prime Minister and then just this one scene, where suddenly her husband is not there, making it the ending, the movie would not only be coherent, but also it would have a shot at being moving. Instead it's insufferable, dull, scattered and completely unengaging.
Younger Thatcher is played by Alexandra Roach who has a range that varies from her opening her mouth to looking determined. Those two faces she makes aren't actually that much different. Most of the actors in the picture don't have much to do and Streep, who is amazing when she plays Thatcher during her Prime Minister days is excellent for most of the time, but the disjointed script and awful sequences portraying riots on the street, inserted blindly here and there take the viewer out of the movie experience. The constant going back and forth hurts Streep's performance to the point the movie is so chaotic we can't understand what exactly are the problems of the characters so how can she even accurately portray her character's emotions. Maybe she did, but I am not interested in looking at deleted scenes.

Furthermore as puzzling as it is for Hollywood to make a movie about Thatcher, who is mostly hated all around the script doesn't make her a sympathetic character. I'm sure that wasn't the intention - I'm sure they wanted to do this great, feminist piece about a woman who became a Prime Minister and was so determined, ambitious and powerful, because no matter how things may look in reality people hoping for rain of awards will always fix those little blemishes - like ruining many people's lives and ruining the country - and make it look brave and admirable in the film. But despite their efforts, Thatcher comes off either as completely boring or as insufferable bitch. There is this one scene in the movie where she insults one of her advisers. I was waiting for someone to grab the pencil and stab her in the neck with it.
The script has many more flaws but another one I have to mention is its being bizarre for being unique sake strategy. Apparently the standard biopic format wasn't good enough for the creators so they decided to spice things up introducing hallucinatory scenes, mixing documentary footage with shot scenes and of course telling the story in nonlinear matter. In the effect if looks as if the writer tossed the unnumbered sheets of script in the air and the director made the film in the order the sheets fell on the ground.

And of course the awful lines - apart from the hilarious moment where Jim Broadbent points out his shoes are ruined right after him and his wife almost died in the explosion my absolute favorite is "I don't want to die cleaning a teacup!". From what I gathered from this film she will probably die buying milk.
Some sequences in the movie are so bad I couldn't believe actress of Meryl Streep status would not notice how bad the film she is starring in is shaping up to be. From the awful sequence of car explosion to the "cowardice" scene, it's just a disaster. And that weird editing is only making matters worse. The score is also a complete mess mixing all the possible sounds, not having a clear theme and more often than not sounding like a complete noise. I can't believe Thomas Newman is responsible for it.

The only person who seems to know what he is doing and who rescues the movie from being a complete abomination is Elliot Davis who was in charge of cinematography. He is a person who gave such distinctive feel to "Out of Sight", "White Oleander" and yes, "Twilight". The shots are beautiful - the contrast between blue outfits Thatcher wears almost all the time and cold surroundings is very impressive. There are some truly beautifully composed frames here, mostly included in the scene where she is leaving Downing Street and she walks on the rose petals. I'd argue that cinematography is the only thing that wasn't ruined by editing, although in many sequences it looks like they tried to screw this up too.
It would be unfair for me to say I didn't learn anything about Thatcher from this film.  I learned some incredibly gripping, fascinating and hugely important things like that her favorite color is blue and that she buys milk by herself. What a valuable knowledge I gained from watching this movie.

The best biopics inspire me to find out more about the person I've just watched the movie about. But in case of "The Iron Lady" the only thing I promptly researched after seeing it were the predictions for Razzie Awards Nominations. To my huge surprise "The Iron Lady" was nowhere to be seen there, although honestly except for the cinematography and two leads everyone involved should get that honor. Instead "Breaking Dawn" is leading the race. I find that funny - people who go see movie with Meryl Streep except a good film and when they hear about "Twilight" they automatically assume it is going to be an awful movie. 2011 proved that even the things so many think as obvious are sometimes completely wrong.
Meryl Streep really ought to stay away from Phyllida Lloyd in the future - two times these two work together they produced two of the most horrid pictures of recent years and the worst movies Streep appeared in. Meryl surely deserves better.


  1. Ouch! That was awesome. A few weeks ago when I went to see The Artist and Carnage, the ticket that I received when I got in was for The Iron Lady and I was like "wait a minute, I didn't pay to see this. Fuck that!"

  2. Streep’s performance is so true and so uncannily accurate, so full and so complete in its understanding, that she is fascinating every second she is onscreen. As for the film itself, the structure is a bit off and the screenplay doesn’t really give us much else other than a history lesson, but a good history lesson at that. Nice review Sati.

  3. Everyone seems to hate this movie, so I don't know if I will waste my time on it!

    In other news, guess what? Since you're one of my favorite blogs, I have nominated you for the Liebster Blog Award. Check out my post for details:

    Feel free to accept or decline. No pressure.

  4. YES. Love reading some Iron Lady bashing. Great review of a truly awful film. And I suppose it's fair that you draw (positive) attention to the cinematography, which was actually well done. Still, not nearly enough to save the film from the crap that it is.

  5. Blimey, this review might even be more scathing than mine!

  6. Totally agree. Keira Knightley will have tough time in repairing her image.