Rajeev Masand – movies that matter : from bollywood, hollywood and everywhere else

March 2, 2012

Bright star, big pity

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 10:58 pm

March 02, 2012

Cast: Meryl Streep, Jim Broadbent, Alexandra Roach, Olivia Colman

Director: Phyllida Lloyd

It’s hard to find fault in Meryl Streep’s extraordinary performance as former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady, but it’s a shame the film itself has little of interest to say about either the woman, or the period of British history she shaped. Streep nails the accent, and finds emotional depth in her portrayal of the polarizing leader, but the film never goes beyond a surface look at Thatcher’s controversial political career.

Buried under layers of make-up and prosthetics, Streep channels the aged Thatcher even as the film focuses on the fictionalized story of the former politician pottering about in her home, having long hallucinatory conversations with her dead husband Dennis (Jim Broadbent). Using the flashback as a narrative device, the movie offers up shallow, brief snapshots of Thatcher’s career – her invasion of the Falkland Islands, her getting elected to Parliament for the first time, and her consultants remolding her image as she runs for Prime Minister. But they’re all hollow glimpses. The film simply isn’t interested in exploring the reasoning behind her politics, her hunger for power, and her unwillingness to compromise. What’s more, the makers offer no real perspective on her growing unpopularity among the people.

The film works better as a sort of love story, in the snatches of affectionate banter and disagreements we witness between Thatcher and her husband in the earlier years. It’s the love story again that rears its head when you watch the Alzheimer’s-afflicted Thatcher struggling to let go of her husband even years after his passing.

The Iron Lady has three fine performances at its heart – Jim Broadbent plays Dennis Thatcher with a playful glint, as a sort of cuddly uncle, encouraging his wife when she’s low, occasionally roaring at her when he thinks she deserves it. Also impressive is Alexandra Roach as the younger Margaret, the “grocer’s daughter”, who portrays the character’s political awakening convincingly. But it’s Meryl Streep, playing the older versions of Lady Thatcher, who is absolutely riveting on the screen. She inhabits Thatcher completely, from the voice to the dresses to the steely resolve in her eyes. It’s the only reason to watch this mediocre film.

I’m going with two out of five for The Iron Lady. It’s a lazy film about one of the most influential leaders of our times. An opportunity has been wasted.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)


  1. And she won an oscar for this!shouldn’t the academy have done the same thing with J.edgar,movie was lame but performance was exquisite.

    Comment by Rocky — March 3, 2012 @ 9:58 am

  2. Thanks for your review. I deltiniefy will go to see this film. I’ve had some friends tell me this movie is awful and others who say I must see it. I’m lucky enough to have friends who are on all sides of political thought, but most agree on Streep’s performance. (By the way, I am so grateful that I have no idea what your politics are from your writings other than common sense.) Films should be works of art and from what I’ve read this movie hits the spot. If one wants historical details, there are several good books on the subject. A true detailed life of Thatcher would be a documentary several hours long, and I would watch that as well.

    Comment by Misdan — May 18, 2012 @ 3:34 pm

  3. Saw it at early screening: it laekcd insight, it laekcd heart, it laekcd controversy. It’s not unpleasant, and Meryl Streep’s performance is everything you expect from her, but it’s a bit boring. Just the story of an old lady, reflecting on her life. I’m not sure who it will appeal to: Thatcher admirers won’t have anything to do with a Hollywood version of their idol, and the haters won’t want to spend 2 hours with her. As for the people who don’t have an opinion, they most likely won’t care. Streep will get a nom, but that’s that. Just my 2 cents

    Comment by Vinayprabhas — May 18, 2012 @ 3:35 pm

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

Powered by WordPress