Anyone who saw The Iron Lady was not surprised by Meryl Streep's Best Actress Oscar win. Virtually a female Zelig, Streep morphed herself into the former British prime minister, capturing the politician's every mannerism.
Two for two in its nominations to wins (Best Makeup was the other), The Iron Lady was otherwise slighted by the Academy. In accepting the award (her third Oscar in an illustrious career), Streep first paid homage to her hairdresser, J. Roy Helland, whom she first worked with on Sophie's Choice 30 years ago.
Not any ordinary hairdresser, Helland deservedly shared the Oscar with The Iron Lady's other makeup genius Mark Coulier. Adding to Helland and Coulier's craft, Streep nailed every nuance of Thatcher's unmistakable voice.
One wonders why it wasn't held in the same company as the other leading films had more to do about voters' ambivalence of glorifying Margaret Thatcher than its quality as an overall cinematic experience.
I've seen several other conventional British biopics that didn't cross the Atlantic about the rise and fall of Thatcher, and they didn't come close to making the Tory leader a sympathetic character.
Streep clearly understood this when taking the role.
Some critics thought it was in bad taste that the movie be made while Lady Thatcher is still alive, and reportedly suffering from Alzheimers. So much of the film had her being a feeble old woman still talking to and seeing her dead husband Dennis, playfully portrayed by Jim Broadbent. That focus by director Phyllida Lloyd and screenwriter Abi Morgan didn't bother me. Widows and widowers truly in love with their former spouses no doubt and understandably have a problem letting go.
I did have a problem with the ridiculousness of the film's opening scene, in which Thatcher goes unnoticed walking the streets of a rough looking section of London, and purchases from a bodega a pint of milk with coins from her pocketbook. I assure you the former prime minister does not live in such a neighbourhood, nor would her around-the-clock security team allow her to wander the streets aimlessly. And it's doubtful, even at her advanced age, that she wouldn't be recognised by the public.
But thankfully The Iron Lady quickly recovers, and the rest of the film's first-rate editing, sound, music, etc. draws the viewer in, despite one's politics. (For the record, this review is being written from an American liberal's point of view, who despised Thatcherism.)
Because The Iron Lady was about an arrogant individual's ambition, as opposed to the more palatable and universal theme of individual overcoming a disability, which could be better grasped by moviegoers, the film was not held in the same esteem as last year's The King's Speech. That period of British politics somehow won over the American Academy voters with many of the major awards.
So go see The Iron Lady, while it's still in the cinemas, a run no doubt prolonged by Streep's well deserved win.
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