Movie review: “The Iron Lady”


We went to see “The Iron Lady” on Saturday.  Correction: we went to see Meryl Streep on Saturday.  If it had been anyone else in the role (with the possible exception of Helen Mirren), I don’t think we would have rushed out to see it.  How much, after all, does anyone really care about the Falklands war?



Streep does not disappoint.  She becomes Margaret Thacher, beady-eyed and intense, tender and distracted with her husband Denis (Jim Broadbent), impatient and dismissive with her ministers and staff.  She has excellent help from Alexandra Roach, who plays Margaret as a young woman.  She has Margaret Thatcher’s look, and her manner.  As the present-day Margaret, tottery and vague, she is truly wonderful.



But the movie is a near-disaster.



First off: it’s not one movie, it’s two.  It’s a simple little tear-jerker about an elderly person slowly saying goodbye to all the things she cares about; it’s also a soupy potboiler about British politics in the 1970s and 1980s, with lots of stock footage of strikes and riots and policemen clubbing people in the streets, and at least two (maybe three!) Rocky-style montages of Important Things Happening.  



And then there is the editing.



It whirls and swoops.  The camera darts all over the place.  There are cuts within cuts.  The timeline jumps back and forth more than your average episode of “Doctor Who.” Worst of all, the editing doesn’t let you watch Meryl act.  The movie keeps cutting away from her face, chopping her scenes up into surreal bits and pieces. 



I ask you: pretend you’re Phyllida Lloyd, director of “The Iron Lady.”  You are lucky enough to get Meryl Streep to play the lead.  Here’s what you do:


        You organize the sets.

        You make everyone shush.

        You point the camera at Meryl, and you keep it there.

        You sit back in your director’s chair and rub your hands greedily, thinking about your impending Academy Award.


Evidently Phyllida Lloyd decided to make something else: a hybrid of “The Whales of August,” “The Buddy Holly Story,” and a perfume commercial.



It doesn’t work.



But go see it anyway.  See it for Meryl. 



It wasn’t her fault.  She did the best she could.



About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to

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