quick review: The Iron Lady

Watching The Iron Lady is much like walking into a retirement home and finding realized one’s worst fear about growing old. Worse, however, is the condescension that comes from exploiting the dementia of a still-living historical figure to deliver a meet-cute fantasia on coming to terms with bereavement. Here, bluntly, is the point: as much as we can sympathize with Ms. Thatcher for her condition, that’s not what interests us most about her. Suffering from the same species of divided attention that cleaved Madonna’s lesser effort, W.E. , into two limp halves, The Iron Lady sets off Ms. Thatcher in her declining years against a PowerPoint presentation of her greatest moments. Neither the portrait of an influential figure at twilight nor the reenactments of her political/historical accomplishments achieve power. The filmmakers’ unwillingness to take a stance, either supportive or critical, along with an absence of analysis, results in a bland film that is provocative only in its lack of provocation. Insofar as Meryl Streep delivers a strong performance, hardly a revelation given her well-deserved stature, the film leaves her stranded in a vacuum, without the bracing context to boost her portrayal of Thatcher into greatness. The Iron Lady? Call it The Iron Maybe.

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