Jan 29, 2012

The Iron Lady (2011): D

Fueled by a quandary of faults and embarrassments that might threaten to turn a review into a bullet point list of reasons to save your money, The Iron Lady transcends the typical aura of simply bad, simply inept movies and threatens to mutate into avant garde trash. Imagine a public art display involving a derailed freight train, and you’ll be in the right neck of the woods. In the interest of full disclosure, I should say I feel a little bad coming off so harsh, aware as I am that actual people made this movie, cared about it and saw it through, and inasmuch as I might disagree with their taste in much, including (but not limited to) worthwhile filmmaking and possibly politics, the truth is that their product never strays to that which is evil, except for the very valuable time it wastes from your life.

To that end, they’ve actually created the perfect black hole, and they shouldn’t feel personally slighted, just professionally. Director Phyllida Lloyd is all gassed up with no place to go, and making movies is – if I may try to be polite – a misguided channeling of those energies. Please, stop it. There are yet positive ways you can contribute to the world. (Might I suggest Kidspeace?) Concerning the leading lady, Meryl "Greatest Actress of Her Generation" Streep: though technically astute in her mimicry of Margaret Thatcher, the performance lacks even the most basic spark of empathy, or soul, or worthiness of investment, and while some might argue that's appropriate given the figure in question, here it functions less as the centerpiece of a character study than simply as a wax museum figure come to life. Like much of her recent career (Fantastic Mr. Fox being the only exception coming to mind), Streep's in coasting mode here, and it might be said that the wasted presence of her talent heightens the noxious effect of the creative void around her.

A point is made late in the film concerning the cost of a gallon of milk, the image of which most appropriately opens this whitewashed creation. Focusing on the elderly Thatcher’s senile recollections in ways shrill enough to make A Beautiful Mind’s didactic representations of that organ look respectful by comparison, The Iron Lady looks, sounds and feels as if it happened largely by accident, and perhaps the only way its one-of-a-kind, chimpanzees-pounding-on-typewriters awfulness could have been justified would be to have had the film forgo non-fiction status and instead reveal the former Prime Minister as an alien in disguise. Frequently selecting the worst possible camera angle, or motion, or editing device, the film eventually takes to firing off meaningless and frequently nonsensical transitions, montages, and layering effects, as if it were a student project on which every tool available in the provided video editing software had to be used at least once. The nominees have just been announced, and Oscar should feel ashamed for even considering this junk.


  1. The acting in "The Iron Lady" is superb. Merle Streep brings Margaret Thatcher to life, visually vocally and in spirit. Jim Broadbent, as her husband Dennis, is a performance to match and enhance Streep's own. The blending of the roles of Alexandra Roach and Harry Loyd as the young Margaret and Dennis with the later manifestations is seamless.

    The story itself recalls memories, even to Americans, of the Falklands War and introduces us to some of the controversies Thatcher's policies engendered in Britain. I am sure that British memories would be stimulated much more than Americans.

  2. You're missing a few letters and commas in there, but I know what you meant. Unfortunately, I can call just as much b.s. on your partiality to the material as my American politicism. The stink is still wafting this way.