Meryl Streep, in The Iron Lady
approximately 69 minutes and 11 seconds
69.8% of the film
An elderly Margaret Thatcher talks to the imagined presence of her recently deceased husband as she struggles to come to terms with his death while scenes from her past life, from girlhood to British prime minister, intervene.
You can read my short review of the film just by clicking HERE.
The screenplay spends too much time at the surface of things and never digs deep enough to make the film really meaningful. It is constructed as a one woman show and they got lucky they had Meryl as their leading actress.
Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher
To those who say Meryl is overrated from an Oscar perspective, I give them the facts: before this win she had won only once every 8 nominations, never in the past 29 years and her 2 previous wins are most uncontested: no one argues with her supporting Oscar for Kramer vs. Kramer and only a couple of die-hard Jessica Lange fans could claim differently when it comes to her probably career-best performance in Sophie’s Choice. I wanted Meryl to win for The Iron Lady because I felt she deserved it and because I knew/hoped it was time for a 3rd.
Meryl plays Margaret Thatcher, the first female Prime Minister in
history, a strong, determined woman and overall a controversial political
figure. As she is portrayed in this film, we discover Thatcher at very old age,
struggling with dementia and remembering events of the past, the crucial points
of her career; all these, I would say, from a subjective perspective. Some have
said the entire purpose of the film was to win Meryl an Oscar, and I respond:
what’s wrong with that? It’s clearly written as a one-woman-show, with tears,
aging makeup, strong speeches, and what is wrong in seeing an Oscar-type
performance done right. We can all agree the film kinda sucks, but at one point
you stop caring about the film and focus on the performance, which is quite
close to as good as it gets.
It didn’t take much for Meryl to convince me I am about to see a fantastic performance: it’s all there, from the first scene with 80-something Thatcher going out to buy milk. The scenes from the film with Thatcher in present times make for the best aging acting I’ve seen since Marion Cotillard in La vie en rose. The makeup is great and it helps a lot, but the old-lady gestures and movements, the entire body language and emotion on the face feel so authentic, I can’t believe anyone would argue with that.
It’s all to Meryl’s credit of course, as she puts so much work into it to make it look natural and effortless. Every one of her scenes from present times, every minute of her performance looks Oscar-worthy to me; I found it impossible to figure out her best moment: it’s either her dialogues with her daughter, the phone call from her son, the goodbye to her husband, the scene in the doctor’s office – all are played with such an intimidating determination, but also keeping an undisputed emotional connection – something that is valid throughout the performance: I was always aware that under the surface of this tough politician there’s woman, a human I can relate to, either from being laughed at, second guessing certain actions, regretting words she said, feeling frustrated with those around her treating her like a child.
The entire human aspect of the performance is all Meryl, because she has the great talent of building such an emotional connection with the audience. Is there any point in underlining how flawless the performance is from a technical point of view? Every gesture, every look at the camera, the voice, the old age body movement – they all seemed perfect, because Meryl knows how to act in front of the camera and the camera loves her. In any scene, I just couldn’t take my eyes off her.
To me, the performance was at its strongest in the present day scenes, but she was great in every other scene too. However, as the age of the character progressed, the performance became more and more interesting to me. I would rank it as a 4 for the scenes before & during Prime Minister years and an obvious 5 for the old-age performance. Unlike many of you, I strongly feel she should’ve won 3 years ago for Doubt, but to me this also ranks among her best work, so I am happy with the win.