'The Iron Lady' should have been so much more - East Valley Tribune: Ahwatukee Foothills

'The Iron Lady' should have been so much more

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Nick Spake

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Posted: Friday, January 13, 2012 1:34 pm | Updated: 10:39 am, Wed Jun 6, 2012.

One would assume that a biopic about one of the most prominent women that ever lived, starring this generation's most respected actress, would be an equation for first-rate entertainment. Yet, this is a misguided mess in which director Phyllida Lloyd, who previously brought us "Mamma Mia!," finds herself completely in over her head. Not even a dedicated performance from Meryl Streep can redeem the film's rushed pacing and unevenness.

The movie depicts the life of Margaret Thatcher, the former British Prime Minister and the first woman to ever lead a key political party in the United Kingdom. As a young lady trying to be taken seriously in politics, Thatcher is played by Alexandra Roach, whose mouth hangs open a fair deal of the time. As an older woman Streep portrays her in a genuinely good performance. A significant portion of "The Iron Lady" also takes place in modern times as the retired Thatcher attempts to deal with the loss of her husband, Denis, played by Jim Broadbent.

The problem with "The Iron Lady" is that there are basically two different movies here, neither of which meet their full potential. One movie is about an influential woman's rise into power and the events that ultimately lead to her resignation. The other story is about an elderly woman letting go of her late spouse. This approach might have worked if "The Iron Lady" explored Thatcher's relationship with her husband in depth. But a majority of their scenes together just consist of cute one-liners that sound like something out of a sitcom. Only on occasion do we actually see an honest representation of why these two fell in love and the toll that Margaret's political career had on their marriage.

The husband and wife subplot isn't the only misfire. "The Iron Lady" doesn't take the time to develop any relationships that feel authentic. Thatcher has two children, Carol and Mark. The only time we see them as kids though is an instance in which they chase after their mother's car.

Thatcher obviously had to put work above her own offspring on many occasions. So why not put more emphasis on that tragic flaw? Why limit it to just one scene?

Another character that's briefly depicted is Airey Neave, Thatcher's campaign manager played by Nicholas Farrell. The film takes little time to develop him into a character or establish what he might have meant to Thatcher. Then suddenly he's blown up by a car bomb. That's another dilemma with "The Iron Lady." There's lots of interesting dynamics and events for the movie to explore. However, it's all too rushed to actually engage the audience.

The only salvageable aspect of "The Iron Lady" is Streep's performance. She is convincing as both a fierce political lady at the top of her game and an elderly woman draped in makeup. This shouldn't come as a surprise since this is Streep we're talking about. She could attempt to give a bad performance and it would still probably be decent. Even in a poor movie like "The Iron Lady" Streep will likely pull off an Oscar nomination.

If she were to win for this film though, it would be an unjust victory.

Ahwatukee native and Desert Vista graduate Nick Spake is a student at Arizona State University. He has been working as a film critic for five years, reviewing movies on his website, NICKPICKSFLICKS.com. Reach him at nspake@asu.edu.

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