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The Iron Lady (2011)
Anchor Bay Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 4/10/2012
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 4/11/2012
As we've discussed in the past, historical dramas or biographies (which are also known as bio-pics) should be educational in some capacity. This can be especially nice if the movie deals with a different country or a culture to which we aren't often exposed. Obviously, movies shouldn't serve as a replacement to actual research or learning, but if we can come away from the film with new knowledge or a newfound understanding, this can be a plus. Of course, in a perfect world, the film would start from the beginning and serve up its information in a precise manner. Or, you could have a movie like The Iron Lady, which only gives us part of the story, if that.
The Iron Lady tells the story of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (Meryl Streep). The film begins in the present where we meet an old and world-weary Thatcher, who lives by herself. She is suffering from dementia and constantly sees -- and has conversations with -- her deceased husband, Denis (Jim Broadbent). She lives alone, save for her staff, and her daughter, Carol (Olivia Colman), checks in on her. As Margaret begins to clean out a closet of Denis' clothes, she remembers her life. As a teen, Margaret (played by Alexandra Roach) worked in her parent's store and didn't have much of a social life. This paid off with a scholarship to Oxford. From there, she decided to enter the world of politics, eventually winning a seat in Parliament. As one of the few women, she had to fight to have her voice heard, and she succeeded. From there, she ran for Prime Minister and won, determined to change the course of England. However, many of her policies weren't popular and she soon found herself a target for detractors or worse.
The Iron Lady comes from Director Phyllida Lloyd, who previously worked in Streep onMamma Mia!. Perhaps she should stick to fanciful musicals, as she doesn't do a very good job with this bio-pic. Or, is screenwriter Abi Morgan to blame? Whatever the case, The Iron Lady simply doesn't do a very good job of telling its central story. The scenes in the present aside, the movie does take a chronological look at Thatcher's political life and brings us the highlights of her career, taking us from college to Parliament to being a controversial Prime Minister. The movie also dabbles in her personal life (but not very much), showing us how she and Denis fell in love.
But, the movie makes two huge assumptions. First of all, it assumes that we have a working knowledge of how the British government works and who the key players are. We hear about the Labor Party and see Thatcher meet certain important figures, but the movie was apparently made for a British audience, as it never stops to explain anything. Was it cool to see Richard E. Grant and Anthony Head in an Oscar-nominated film? Yes. Do I have any idea who their characters (Michael Heseltine and Geoffrey Howe, respectively) are? No. The movie also assumes that we are familiar with what made Thatcher controversial and what was happening in the world at the time. I recognized Ronald Reagan who he showed up and I remember the Falkland Islands stand-off, but the rest of it was a blur. We hear things mentioned and see footage of riots, but no real details are given.
Even if you want to argue that The Iron Lady isn't meant to be a history lesson, but a portrait of one of the most powerful women in history, the movie still fails. I never felt that I got to know Thatcher. To be fair, the movie does take us behind the scenes to show us how she had to change her look and voice for the campaign trail, and that is interesting. Also, I was taken aback by the portrayal of her dementia. I have to assume that it's based on fact, but it presents us with a person who can barely function at times. This sort of bare-faced view is usually reserved for people who are no longer living.
If nothing else, I was interested in seeing The Iron Lady to see if Streep truly deserved the Oscar overViola Davis. The answer is, she didn't. I don't know enough about Thatcher to say that Streep was doing a good impression of her, but I do know that all I ever saw was Streep in a big wig. The scenes in the present showed some acting chops, but overall, she didn't bring any life to the character. Perhaps Thatcher is known as a cold and unfeeling person, if so, this film is a perfect reflection of her.
The Iron Lady surprisingly has explosions every few minutes on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Anchor Bay Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 20 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source material. The colors look very good, which is important, as Thatcher's blue suits are meant to stand out, and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is good, we can make out the textures on those aforementioned suits, but the picture does go a bit soft in some shots. The depth is acceptable, as the movie never looks flat. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.0 Mbps. This is a fine track, as it does a good job with both the dialogue-heavy scenes and the terrorist explosions which rock the film. These blasts provide nice subwoofer effects, while the surround sound and stereo effects are nicely detailed as well.
The Iron Lady Blu-ray Disc contains several extras. "Making The Iron Lady" (12 minutes) takes us on-set to see Streep and the cast at work. We get comments from Director Phyllida Lloyd and the cast who talk about the production and the challenge of making a bio-pic. "Recreating the Young Margaret Thatcher" (3 minutes) examines the actress who plays the early incarnation of the character, as well as the young Denis. "Denis: The Man Behind the Woman" (3 minutes) profiles Jim Broadbent and his character. "Battle in the House of Commons" (2 minutes) looks at the filming of the Parliament scenes and how they attempted to be authentic. In "Costume Design: Pearls and Power Suits" (3 minutes), Costume Designer Consolata Boyle discusses the way in which the clothes defined Thatcher's character. "History Goes to the Cinema" (18 minutes) is a documentary which shows how recent films like The Iron Lady,My Week with Marilyn, and W.E. help to bring true stories to life.
Review Copyright 2012 by Mike Long