Thursday, June 20, 2013

H.B. Movie Review: I Watched "The Iron Lady," So You Didn't Have To!

I’m guessing that based on the post’s title, you can deduce that I didn't enjoy watching “The Iron Lady” (2011). Starring Meryl Streep, the biopic spans from Margaret’s early days as grocer’s daughter to her last years grappling with dementia.

My main problem with the movie was that it didn't employ a linear narrative, and seems to hopscotch back and forth in time. Maybe, it feels disjointed because the story unfolds via a series of remembrances. Taking place around 2008, the audience finds Maggie in the grips of dementia. Though her husband Denis is dead, his ghost interacts with Maggie throughout. It’s these hallucinations, or sometimes a home movie, old photograph, or news story that sparks the flashbacks which depict the important episodes in her life. These memories are juxtaposed with Maggie trying to navigate her way through everyday life as she tries desperately to grasp reality.

Her descent’s heartbreaking to watch, and her exchanges with ghost-Denis only highlight her internal conflict. But, despite being a clever story-telling device, the movie could have been told another way and remained just as poignant. Similarly frustrating, the occurrences that are portrayed in flashbacks don’t seem to flow sequentially. For example, the Falklands War seems to break-out during the end of her premiership instead of the beginning. But again, I wondered if the skewed timeline was supposed to be a product of Maggie’s confused mind.

Honestly y’all, I was so frustrated I nearly switched the movie off. But, it wasn't completely terrible. Meryl Streep received an Academy Award for her performance-rightly so! As older Maggie, she expertly conveys her fight between clinging to glory days past and recognizing things change (including her own traitorous memory). As Prime Minister, she’s a force of nature- tenacious, opinionated, and domineering. Never mind that she nailed the voice!

The movie did a good job of depicting Maggie’s relationship with her family, too. There are several early flashbacks of Maggie gazing earnestly at her father waxing poetic on responsible governance; but it’s her partnership with Denis I found most absorbing. Denis is cheeky (the perfect foil to buttoned-up Maggie), and the scenes between them, both as young adults and a married couple, radiate warmth and familiarity. It doesn't hurt that Jim Broadbent, the actor who plays older Denis, is magnetic. Maggie’s relationship with daughter Carol is also compelling. The obvious favoritism she demonstrates towards Mark and the resentment Carol has towards her mother for choosing work over family are deeply felt.

Though it was neat seeing the incidents I read and podcasted about on screen, I wish the movie was meatier. Because of the flashback/montage format, the pivotal moments of Maggie’s life felt minimized, not thoroughly described, and left to viewers to decipher their significance. It was a superficial representation of a complex woman. Google tells me the BBC has produced two recent-ish television movies about our girl-Margaret Thatcher-The Long Walk to Finchley (2008) which depicts her early career, and Margaret (2009) that focuses on premiership. If you're in Great Britain and have watched either film, let me know what you think!

So, my final verdict-skip it! Listen to the podcast (do that anyway!) and if you're just itching to see the movie, watch the trailer below. You'll save yourself 1 hr. 40 min. and have a better experience. Womp, womp.

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