November 15, 2011 at 8:51 am #43510
This is the first review I am aware of, with the Daily Telegraph – a hard-core right wing paper in the UK, but not Murdoch-owned – clearly jumping the gun and violating the embargo. Anyway, a strongly favorable reaction:
The Iron Lady Review:
The Iron Lady: review
It may be flawed, but there’s genuine passion at the heart of The Iron Lady, writes David Gritten. . by David Gritten | November 15, 2011 | Meryl Streep stars as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady Two preconceptions about “The Iron Lady,” the long anticipated film about Margaret Thatcher’s life, are laid to rest on seeing it. The first was that it would be a hatchet job on our former Prime Minister. Not so: the film is relatively even-handed, and for long stretches sympathetic to its subject. The second was that it was a travesty for American actress Meryl Streep to be playing such a very English character. Well, those doubts have been assuaged too; Streep is splendid, giving a detailed, authoritative performance that goes way beyond accurate impersonation to evoke Thatcher’s demeanour and spirit. One can think of a few talented British actresses who might have acquitted themselves well in the role, but in fairness it’s hard to imagine them doing it better than Streep. Screenwriter Abi Morgan (TV’s “The Hour”) has fashioned a story rooted in the present, with Thatcher in her 80s, afflicted with memory loss, largely confined to her Chester Square home and reluctantly facing the task of clearing out the clothes of her husband Denis, who died eight years previously. This device allows personal belongings and garments to trigger memories of her past life, which is then re-created in flashback. Cue a brisk gallop through a life forged by her passion for politics – starting in her teens in Grantham, where she worked in the grocery store owned by her father, the town’s Conservative mayor. (She is splendidly portrayed in these early scenes by British actress Alexandra Roach, in a breakout role as a toothy, earnest, slightly humourless young Margaret.) From then on, it’s strictly chronological. She’s elected to Parliament, becomes Education Secretary, leader of the Tory Party and Britain’s first woman P.M. — at which point she finally gets to wreak her will. Events come and go in a blur — IRA attacks, war in the Falklands, surviving the Brighton bombing, the miners’ strike, the Big Bang, poll tax riots – before her leadership crumbles. These episodes are interrupted by continued returns to the present, as she shuffles around her bedroom. This is a double-edged script device. On one hand, to portray Margaret Thatcher for so much of the film in a state of dementia feels skewed. Yet it must be said that these scenes of her in her dotage are by far the most affecting. In this state, her late husband appears to her, and they talk, both amiably and tetchily. (Denis is played by Jim Broadbent in a reading not far removed from Private Eye’s Dear Bill column, as a convivial, mischievous golf club yarn-spinner, always ready for the next ‘snifter.’) His presence is a trick of a failing mind, of course, but only in these present-day passages can Streep play the Iron Lady with any vulnerability. In the amusing opening scene, she has eluded her personal security guard and sneaked out to the local corner shop (as if!) to buy a pint of milk, the price of which astonishes her. Yet a point is being made here: even as Prime Minister she was sufficiently in touch to know what ordinary people paid for groceries. For much of her tenure in Number 10, there’s less of a character to mine: she’s mostly an implacable, relentless force of nature who just brushes resistance aside. Significantly, the key players in The Iron Lady are women — Streep, Morgan and director Phyllida Lloyd. Men, whether the guffawing grotesques she encounters on entering Parliament, or the weak, compliant members of her Cabinet, generally receive short shrift. Still, there’s an electrifying moment in Cabinet when she launches the rant against her deputy Geoffrey Howe that led him to resign. It’s clearly excessive on her part, and Lloyd employs a series of jump cuts to indicate as much – and maybe to foreshadow her dementia. How people react to The Iron Lady depends on their attitude to her. David Cameron and Nick Clegg may squirm at a line in which she mocks coalitions. Trade unionists, especially ex-steelworkers and miners, will find it too kindly. It may not find favour in Argentina. (“Sink it!” she snarls about the Belgrano.) Yet American Republicans, currently lacking a presidential candidate with a fraction of Thatcher’s conviction and confidence, will surely drool at it. This is a brave stab at a contemporary life, and even with its flaws it does Margaret Thatcher a certain grudging justice. Awards should be coming Streep’s way; yet her brilliance rather overshadows the film itself.November 15, 2011 at 8:58 am #43512
I’m assuming now that this is in print most other UK critics who have seen this will rush their reviews in as well, which is what happens when a competitor breaks the rules.
If advance publicity writers were shown the film (the practice when interviewing someone like Streep in conjunction with the PR tour), they might be reviewing an unfinished film, since often that is what they are shown.November 15, 2011 at 10:19 am #43513
I was reading some reviews for this film earlier. All of them were favorable towards the film, but very very favorable towards Streep.November 15, 2011 at 1:14 pm #43514
Phyllida Lloyd’s film gives us Thatcher without Thatcherism, but Meryl Streep is astonishing
Was it a dream or is it a nightmare? In the early years of the 21st century a frail old woman totters around her London home, assailed by memories that rise up unbidden. They tell her that her husband still lives, and that she remains the prime minister, the cherished daughter of a nation of shopkeepers, called upon to save Britain from ruin. For the old woman, these ghosts provide reassurance, a sunny remembrance of days gone by. Others, by contrast, may be hard pressed to keep the horrors at bay.
While one doubts whether Baroness Thatcher would wholeheartedly approve of any large screen biopic, it seems likely that she’d have a certain, sneaking affection for The Iron Lady, which prints the legend and keeps the dissent on spartan rations. Yes, the film provides glimpses of a blustering Michael Foot, and archive footage from the poll tax riots. At one stage angry protesters slap on the window of the heroine’s limo to tell her she’s “a monster”. Yet there’s little sense of the outside world, the human cost, or the ripple effect of divisive government policies. It is a movie that gives us Thatcher without Thatcherism.
The Iron Lady, directed by Phyllida Lloyd from an Abi Morgan script, opts for a breezy, whistle-stop tour through the unstable nitroglycerin of Thatcher’s life and times. The tone is jaunty and affectionate, a blend of Yes Minister and The King’s Speech, fuelled by flashbacks that bob us back through authorised history.
We first see Margaret as a doting daughter, weighing sweets in her father’s shop, then as a gauche candidate, forced to take tea with the ladies while the gents talk politics. Lloyd’s previous film, Mamma Mia! called for Meryl Streep to sing along to Abba songs. This one has her dancing with her on-screen husband to The King and I soundtrack. “Did you know Yul Brynner was a gypsy from Vladivostok?” asks Denis (played by Jim Broadbent), his lip curling in disapproval.
Yet Streep, it transpires, is the one great weapon of this often silly and suspect picture. Her performance is astonishing and all but flawless; a masterpiece of mimicry which re-imagines Thatcher in all her half-forgotten glory. Streep has the basilisk stare; the tilted, faintly predatory posture. Her delivery, too, is eerily good – a show of demure solicitude, invariably overtaken by steely, wild-eyed stridency.
“Traitors!” she declares as her premiership wobbles. She is condemned by Howe, challenged by Heseltine and finally upended by turncoats in the cabinet. All that remains is the love of her adorable Denis and the angelic Mark, who we see prancing on a beach and playing on a swing.
“Politicians, ugly buildings and whores,” growled John Huston in Chinatown. “They all get respectable if they last long enough.” The Iron Lady makes its subject appear not merely respectable but poignant and sympathetic to boot: a woman who wanted nothing more than to change the world and make children happy (her children specifically). It leaves her shuffling plaintively from room to room, the legend at rest, or being examined by her doctor, who asks her how she feels.
“Feelings?” scoffs Thatcher. Feelings do no not interest her. Thoughts and ideas are what matter the most. “What we think is what we become. And I think I am fine.” The Iron Lady, to a fault, seems to think that as well.
Read more at ONTD: http://ohnotheydidnt.livejournal.com/64383120.html#ixzz1doKVtn6SNovember 15, 2011 at 3:38 pm #43515
It sure is looking good for Meryl to get #17 for THE IRON LADY…….and for me personally..I am thrilled..I am not predicting a win at this point in the movie season..i still see it as Davis vs. Close….but we can never count Streep out…can we???November 15, 2011 at 4:14 pm #43516
The last review listed left out a crucial element – like where it is from.
It was by the critic of the Guardian, which is the UK’s most respected newspaper, and is left-wing (i.e., doesn’t worship at the Thatcher altar).
We need to see US reviews – the Brit ones won’t have much impact except on Brit bloc voters – but her chances for a nomination remain high. But the reaction to the film – not so good – almost certainly remains an obstacle to her winning.November 15, 2011 at 6:09 pm #43517
Here’s an interesting reaction from an Insider. Happy to see this film spark debate and conversation.
Norman Tebbit: ‘This is not the Margaret Thatcher I knew’
A new film, The Iron Lady, explores the career of Margaret Thatcher. But it’ll take more than the talents of Meryl Streep to capture the essence of this political giant.
Out of step: Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady; Margaret Thatcher and Norman Tebbit in 1983 Photo: REX/ANTHONY MARSHALL
By Norman Tebbit
8:38PM GMT 15 Nov 2011
What was it like to work for Margaret Thatcher? What sort of woman was she at the height of her powers? You might think that if you were setting out to make a so-called “biopic” about such a dominant figure on the political stage of the late 20th century, your researchers would have sought out those who were closest to her in those years and asked them.
I do not know whom the makers of the Meryl Streep film talked to. Perhaps Michael Heseltine or Geoffrey Howe, but certainly not me. To judge the film from its trailer, they confined their inquiries to the Daily Mirror and perhaps Tim Bell’s public relations firm.
I can speak only from personal experience, so what I saw and heard may conflict with the image the film-makers seek to establish as conventional knowledge before the serious biographies by men like Charles Moore, who did his research with care, are published following her death.
I had hardly exchanged more than casual remarks with Margaret Thatcher before two election defeats in 1974 made it clear that Ted Heath would have to be replaced as leader of the Conservative Party. I realised well enough that we held rather similar views, but I had never thought of her as a party leader, let alone a prime minister. It was, after all, more than 35 years ago and only places like Sri Lanka had women leaders.
As I brooded over whether the great philosopher-politician Keith Joseph could make a great leader, I was approached by Airey Neave, the hero of Colditz, who evaded Gestapo death squads only to be murdered in 1979 by Irish Republican terrorists. He asked me to talk to Margaret Thatcher with a view to joining her leadership election team. From that day on I worked closely with her through the opposition years and for eight years in government.
That she was a remarkable personality cannot be denied, even by her detractors. After all she is, I think, alone in winning her third successive general election with more votes than she had in her first.
I found that there were twin threads in her thinking, the first a romantic patriotism rooted deep in her non-metropolitan background. She detested metropolitan cynicism about her country and its people, and that attitude was strengthened by a rather unfashionable non-conformist religious belief about what was right and wrong. The other thread sprang from her education as a scientist and her working life, not in academia but in the laboratory of a food company.
Once she was elected leader of the party, I was called in to work as one of the small team of Airey, Michael Dobbs (then a Central Office researcher) and sometimes Nigel Lawson, who advised her on tactics to deal with Jim Callaghan at Prime Minister’s Questions.
I found her self-assured on the principles of her politics, but open-minded on tactics, although sometimes utterly naive about the impact of what she might say in that cockpit of male humour, the House of Commons. Never, however, would she sacrifice principle to tactics, nor go down a road she would witheringly describe as “too clever”.
Working with her was made much easier once I realised that her tactics were born of her strategy – which was itself built on an unchanging set of principles. From then on, I seldom had to wonder what would be her reaction to events. It grew naturally from that structure.
Nor was it long before I became aware of her deep affection for her husband, Denis, and his affection and respect for her. He was a rock of comfort when things went badly.
From those early days, I found she could be a very demanding master. One evening we met at a 10 o’clock division and she asked me if I would help redraft a speech for her. Naturally I agreed, but then, as she invited me back to her office to start work, realised it was to be delivered the next day. At around 3am, she noticed me yawning and observed: “You are not very bright tonight.” She seemed quite put out when I reminded her that it was “tomorrow bloody morning”.
As a junior trade minister, I found her a great support and she trusted my judgment when it came to investing in both the European Airbus programme and the Rolls-Royce 534 engine. She was always open to persuasion, but only by argument and facts properly marshalled and presented, and she could be hard, perhaps at times unfairly so, on colleagues who failed her standards.
However, she was never, in my experience, the half-hysterical, over-emotional, over-acting woman portrayed by Meryl Streep. She could be angry, but then so could I, and on at least one occasion I walked back to my department unsure whether I would find on my arrival that I was no longer the Secretary of State. Contrary to some accounts of her negotiating tactics, I never felt that she was playing “the feminine card”. It was all about reality, not emotion, and she was no stranger to the game of hard ball.
The Sinn Fein/IRA attempt to murder Margaret Thatcher and as many of her ministers as they could showed her at her best: no histrionics, just courage and determination, alongside real concern for the victims of the plot. I felt her warmth, sympathy and concern, as well as a quiet demonstration of her support in taking the unprecedented risk of allowing me to continue my duties as Secretary of State for Trade and Industry from my hospital bed. She also offered to let me use Chequers as though it were mine, to be near to my wife after I left Stoke Mandeville Hospital.
I knew soon after that I would leave her Government after the next election. Perhaps that affected my relationship with her, although she tried to persuade me to stay in 1987 and indeed to return in 1990.
In the copy of her memoirs that she gave to me, Margaret Thatcher penned the words of Kipling, which sum up what it was like to work for her: “But the Thousandth man will stand your friend, With the whole round world agin you.” That went both ways between us.
Lord Tebbit served in Mrs Thatcher’s government from 1979-87November 16, 2011 at 1:19 am #43518
The Sun’s review
By GRANT ROLLINGS
The star has teamed up with the musical’s director Phyllida Lloyd again for a Margaret Thatcher biopic — and The Sun has had a sneak preview.
It comes 21 years after Mrs T was forced out, but makes the former PM suddenly seem to be Britain’s most important living politician.
And much of that is down to a remarkable performance from two-time Oscar-winner Meryl.
The 62-year-old is totally believable as the single-minded Tory legend.
But more than that, Meryl’s Maggie in her prime is a towering, ultra-confident woman who makes men shrink.
Even the current crop of male politicians will shrink by comparison.
A 17th Oscar nomination is a dead cert for this great actress.
But a Best Supporting Actress Award should go to the movie’s make-up department.
For much of the film we see Meryl as the present day 86-year-old Margaret. The prosthetics are incredibly realistic. What is less real are the imagined conversations between a befuddled Lady Thatcher and her dead husband Denis. Some of the Iron Lady’s fans may not like to see her so rusty.
But the grumpy exchanges with Jim Broadbent as Denis up the film’s guffaw percentages.
Denis is an affectionate figure of fun, doing a Chaplinesque walk and donning a pink turban.
Iron lady … the biopic follows Margaret Thatcher’s struggles in the male world of politics
Margaret’s clearing out of his old clothes provides the launch pad for flashbacks to her past.
Here we get more humour as Margaret tells her style advisors that the hat can go but the twin pearls are “non-negotiable”.
Rival … Richard E Grant plays Michael Heseltine in the film
The film concentrates on her struggle in the male world of politics, her love for Denis and the sacrifices the mother-of-two made in her personal life.Her policies appear fleetingly in archive footage.
The bullying of Deputy PM Geoffrey Howe and a forceful command to “sink it” when discussing the Argentinian warship Belgrano are the only glimpses of a darker side.
It reminds me of the George W. Bush biopic W, which was so scared to be labelled partisan that it sat on the fence.
There is also a major drama deficit — missing out on all the plotting, revenge and intrigue.
At one point Maggie comments about ambition: “It used to be about doing something, now it is about being someone.”
Director Lloyd has followed that trend, going for the “someone” rather than the “something”.
Still, wonderful acting abounds — especially from Peep Show’s Olivia Colman as Maggie’s daughter Carol and Nicholas Farrell as trusted advisor Airey Neave. And Richard E. Grant coiffs up for a turn as Michael Heseltine.November 16, 2011 at 7:07 am #43519
The trailer for this kind of makes Streep look, well, not so great, but I’m optimistic and hopeful she can pull this off. I think a nomination is definitely happening, but I have a hard time seeing her win a third time for this. I think it’s Viola Davis all the way, but we’ll see.November 16, 2011 at 8:45 am #43520
But a Best Supporting Actress Award should go to the movie’s make-up department.
Looks like this could at least pull a Makeup win.November 16, 2011 at 9:04 am #43521
So Meryl is becoming the Rich Little of the AMPAS group and that’s worthy of a third trophy? Let’s hope not!November 16, 2011 at 1:47 pm #43522
I’ve been wondering if this is a trend, these biopics of such….right-leaning persons.
Hey next year can we have a film about Corazon (sorry Isky), Delphine LaLaurie, Isabella of Spain, or Tz’u hsi?
And while we’re at it, why not a biopic on Bill Gates (ya, tell the truth about THAT guy),Leopold 11, or Pol Pot????
Wait, I think some of them have been done already.
Anyways, I see this as a major race between Davis and Streep. And if the past few decades is any indication, Streep will lose this battle.
But maybe not. We’ll see.November 16, 2011 at 2:00 pm #43523
At this point, from what I’ve seen (including the UK reaction), I doubt she’ll win. At the moment, not assuming she’s even a lock for a nomination, I’d put her behind Davis, Close and Williams, and then if someone else scores big at critics’ group, another contender possibly as well.
My guess is you will see among leading US reviews a curious, all over the place reaction, and if Streep is going to win a third Oscar, she likely will need near universal acclaim. This is likely to be as divisive a performance as hers in Doubt, not acclaimed across the board like Devil and J&J.
She’s not likely to win SAG (having won recently) or any critics’ groups.
We need to see GG placement for this and other films, but this is a group that responds favorably to Harvey’s wishes, and he may prefer Williams among his candidates,November 16, 2011 at 2:07 pm #43524
The Help was confirmed as Drama yesterday, and My Week With Marilyn will be competing in Comedy/Musical. Best guess for the Globes? Davis and Willams.