Saturday, February 4, 2012

Meryl Streep in The Iron Lady

Another year, another nomination, another record. Meryl Streep received her seventeenth Oscar nomination for playing Margaret Thatcher, the controversial British PM in Phyllida Llyod's movie, The Iron Lady. Each and every year when Meryl is nominated there's a point (=the Golden Globes) where everybody believes that it's Meryl's year after all. However, there's always the SAG which she loses (I guess if she hadn't won for Doubt, she would have won for Julie & Julia) and then she misses the Oscar as well. Bafta may help her a bit, but I suspect that Michelle is a bigger threat for Bafta (and the Oscar) than we imagine. And finally I'm VERY happy to say that Meryl got her third Oscar. :) 

The Iron Lady is heavily criticised as a movie, and while I see the point of the haters, I should also add that I actually enjoyed it while it lasted. Sure, Phyllida Lloyd has a lot to learn as a director, but her work improved considerably since her previous dreadful effort, Mamma Mia!. It's an accurate movie when it comes to historical facts though I'm not so sure about the scenes showing Thatcher's private life. Jim Broadbent plays the weirdest role you can possibly imagine.

However, the movie mostly felt like it was made so that Meryl can finally win her third Oscar. I really don't know, either what she has to do to win that award. There's always someone, who's more due or whose movie is loved more and somehow Meryl is forced to the second place. I think she should have won her third for her Julia Child (I know that many disagree, let's not get into that) at the very least. And here we go again, two years later, another biopic, another nod and another loss coming even though now she had what worked for everybody else: movie about a British politician.

Margaret Thatcher is already a divisive figure in politics: some consider her the greatest British politician since Churchill, some say she's the Antichrist. There's nobody who's immune to Margaret Thatcher and it was up to Meryl to use this. I suppose nobody can be indifferent to this performance. I suppose it serves the supporters and the haters of Mrs. Thatcher as well. Meryl's clearly not judgemental; she's trying to ignore politics as much as possible and we don't see a politician from a certain party, we actually see a woman who happens to be a politician. The centre of Meryl's performance is actually the womanhood of Mrs. Thatcher. The seemingly cold-hearted woman has a much softer side: it's a heartbreaking moment when she has to deal with the death of her soldiers and decides to write to the mothers. Meryl wonderfully shows the more sympathetic side of her character (or as some would say, the woman behind the monster). 

From an actress of Meryl Streep's calibre, you would expect a complete transformation to the character she's playing. Meryl (as always) fulfills all the expactations in the technical part of the character: she nails the accent, the mannerisms, the walk, everything that you see on the outside of Margaret Thatcher. That's clearly no surprise considering Meryl's filmography, it was really the inner world of Mrs. Thatcher that was exciting and really challenging for her. We first get to see her as a broken-down old woman, shopping. She's slow, unable to keep up with the world (literally, too). And the best thing is when the technical and emotional side come together: she expresses so much with just walking.

The most wonderful thing about this performance was that Meryl Streep indeed disappeared in this part. As I was sitting in my chair, I actually had to remind myself that it's Meryl that I'm looking at. Her transformation is almost as terrific as Marion Cotillard's was (though Meryl doesn't get such a dynamite of a character). She's so incredibly authentic and believable as Margaret Thatcher that she's almost more "Thatcher" than the real one. :)

In this transformation, Meryl successfully hid her own joyous, fun and playful self. As Julia Child, Meryl was very much present (and some hate it, personally, I felt it made that character even more beautiful), but here we don't get to see the Meryl Streep we all know (and love). It must have been really difficult for her to play someone with absolutely no sense of humor.

The scenes with the old Margaret and her dead husband are incredibly painful to watch, especially their last scene together. Although they were written in a very chesy and sentimental way, I kept marveling at Meryl's skills to turn them into something utterly real and heartbreaking.

Meryl also successfully avoided being completely laughable in the "Iron Lady" parts where she shows Maggie as a ruthless and harsh leader. The "cowardice" and "I have done battle" scenes are on the verge of completely ruining all the things that Meryl achieved. Meryl, however, never went too much over the top with her and she was able to seem tough and really powerful instead of hysterical and bitchy.

Meryl amazingly develops her character. All the wonderful depths and layers that she shows are just magnificent. After watching this movie, you really feel like knowing Maggie Thatcher in person. Meryl lets us observe this woman along with her and it was just a fascinating journey along with her. I just felt like knowing such intimate details about her.

My only problem with this performance is that it's not groundbreaking or totally mindblowing. Although there are lots of moments of brilliance by which I was completely fascinated, I was never completely taken by her emotionally. That seems like a big problem, but Meryl made up for it with the overall fantastic achievement plus it's more of the movie's and the screenplay's fault as they didn't give her any scenes to be emotionally captivating. Viola Davis' part was easier that way: although she had less screentime, she constantly had the opportunity to leave a huge impact. Meryl didn't have the chance for that, despite the fact how showy this part seems (it's much less showy than I imagined). But I guess Thatcher is a very reserved person and it was right not to make her too emotional.

Overall, Meryl Streep gives a fantastic performance as Margaret Thatcher. Although it's high time she won an Oscar and this is terrific work, this one is bit far from being as great as some of her other works like Sophie's Choice or The Deer Hunter (but honestly, how could she get better than that?). Still, she's just brilliant in the technical part of her performance, nails the emotional scenes and she's just thoroughly impressive playing this very controversial and divisive character. Again, not one of her best, but fantastic anyhow and 100% worthy of an Oscar win.
What do you think?


Alex in Movieland said...

I agree that it really is perfect from a "technical" point of view, as in the physicality of it. I understand what you mean about the emotions... but strangely enough I connected in that aspect too. So I guess I kinda liked it more than you did. :) I much prefer this compared to Julie & Julia.

dinasztie said...

Yes, I guess I didn't make that clear enough: I connected to her, but there wasn't really a chance.

I love her much more in Julie and Julia and I love Viola more in The Help, but that doesn't mean that those performances are better. ;)

Anonymous said...

Meryl might win this year, but that would be undeserved. Michell, Rooney and Viola are more deserving IMO. Meryl will win (maybe) her third for movie academy will love or baity supporting performance. It'd be cool if she becomes first person two have two supporting Oscars and one lead one.

dinasztie said...

Anon: I think it would be a worthy win based on the performance.

Everybody says she can win for the adaptation of August Osage County. And that movie will be loved, for sure.

A supporting win is just no way. She never gets supporting parts anymore. :) And when she gets, she's not nominated. :D

Anonymous said...

Believe me, she will get more and more supporting parts, or she will choose to do TV. And i don't think she's right actress to play Violet in August: Osage Country though she might prove me wrong. Estelle Parsons won TONY for it and if you watched Bonnie & Clyde, you know how shrill she was in that. She was also very shrill in August. And you see what happened to Carnage- 0 Oscar noms (and Carnage had Polanski, August has no so well known director), you never know which film academy will like, just look at The Iron Lady (many hoped it will be this year's The Queen).

dinasztie said...

It was actually Deanna Dunagan won a Tony for that part, Parsons played her off-Broadway.

You know, I've never been so fond of God of Carnage, it's a bit overrated play. :)

I don't think that Meryl will ever have to do TV to survive. Supporting parts, maybe, but she still gets the best leading roles when actresses her age (Sissy, Jessica, Great Glenn) play supporting parts and do tv. It's definitely wrong that Meryl gets to play all the great roles but that's just the truth. :)

joe burns said...

Great review! I also think Meryl has a chance of winning for August Osage County. I think she needs to find a performance that comes from the soul (not one that is gimmicky) to win an Oscar.

dinasztie said...

Thanks, Joe! Well for me, Julia Child really came from her soul (Why am I the only one who's absolutely in love with that performance?). :) I think all she needs is a great director and movie to win the Oscar. Great directors, however, make men or young women their leads. :/

Anonymous said...

When Meryl Streep see this list, she should stop wanting that third Oscar. Apart from Adaptation (and we can exclude her cameo in manhattan) she hasn't done any of these films (and she wants THIRD Oscar, c'mon)

Louis Morgan said...

I thought she and her moments, but she never seemed to have that extra quality found in the best performances.

dinasztie said...

Anon: Meryl is not a screenwriter, but an actress. An actress can excel in the worst film as well. Meryl is a fantastic actress who deserves a third Oscar. And the fact that she didn't star in these masterpieces is that most directors want male actors or young women in leading roles. If you watch it, she starred in "masterpieces" when she was around 30. After that "masterpieces" only provide women of her age with (occasionally juicy) supporting parts.

Anonymous said...

Big problem for Meryl (and this is why she is not getting her third, yet)is that she always acts in a bad films where she is (often) only good thing about it and she overshadows her film. Films are result of a collaborative process, theater is about acting. Acting in film is 4th or 5th most important element, certanly behind directing, editing and writing. Meryl needs to stop doing films with people like Phyllida Lloyd. Look at Sissy Spacek in the last 15 years, she acted (and was great) in Affliction, Straight Story, In the bedroom, The Help and never overshadowed those films and yet gave great performance in any of them. Meryl was great in The Hours and Adaptation and Prarie home companion (all ensembles). Look at DiCaprio, he always gives great performance, but never overshadows his films, because he works with great directors and they know how to use him, that's film acting. Meryl needs to work with people worthy of her talents and not wasting it with Lloyd. Bad films might get you first Oscar and (except for Ingrid Bergman and Jessica Lange) i don't recall someone got second Oscar for a bad film, let alone third.

Fritz said...

I have no idea what I will think of her. I've only seen clips so far and somehow her scenes as the younger Thater always look like a parody to me...

dinasztie said...

Fritz: So funny that we commented almost at the same time on each other's posts. :D

Well, it's really great as a whole.

Fritz said...

So, Streep will not become a three-time winner now. BTW, who are all your two-time winners? :-) (sorry, I'm too lazy to check now but I'd really like to know)

dinasztie said...

She can be. Viola has a 4.5 as well. ;) But I'm not saying anything. :)

Two-time winners:
<3 Jane Fonda <3 (1969, 1971)
Barbara Stanwyck (1944, 1948)
Elizabeth Taylor (1958, 1966)
Anna Magnani (1955, 1957)
Meryl Streep (1982, 2009)

Cole said...

I just finished watching 'The Iron Lady' and what a mess! I mean I would rather watching a traditional biopic than this film in which we don't learn that much! of course Streep is good, many scenes are heartbreaking, in some she gives fierce and courage and she is amazing, but overall I think it lacks soul! Meryl Streep is one of my favorite actresses and I prefer to see her winning for a superior performance in a better film, I prefer waiting ... What a joy it would be if she had won for Julie and Julia, the academy made a huge mistake awarding bullock.

Also, I finally saw 'The Girl with a Dragon tatoo" and what a film! it's a great, great film with a fantastic cast, a great directing ,a wonderful adaptation with a gloomy atmosphere, Daniel Craig is amazing and Rooney Mara (despite her public image who not seem to be sympathetic) is FANTASTIC, she is cold, even glacial, determined, damaged, tortured she gives a multi-layered performance, and her performance has a soul! I'm dying to know what you think of the movie and her preformance.

I didn't see all the nominees yet but my actual ranking:

01. Rooney Mara
02. Michelle Williams
03. Meryl Streep
04. Viola Davis

dinasztie said...

Cole: What can I say? I loved Meryl and Viola as well. :)