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Will The Iron Lady's Nasty Reviews Hurt Meryl Streep at the Oscars?

Reviews
by Anne Thompson and Maggie Lange
December 29, 2011 2:47 PM
29 Comments
  • |
Meryl Streep stars as Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady

Well, these are not the reviews Harvey Weinstein had in mind when he backed "The Iron Lady." So far the movie is scoring 64% on Rotten Tomatoes. Stateside critics are praising Meryl Streep's impeccable portrait of a much-revered and reviled British leader, while many question Phyllida Lloyd's direction as one-sided, "chronologically scrambled," and overly revisionist. Will these reviews hurt Streep at the Oscars? While it always helps to be on a winning team, reaction from Academy screenings was enthusiastic. SAG will tell the tale on January 29.

The New York Times, A. O. Scott:

They also manage to push the great passion and distinction of her life — her pursuit and exercise of power — into the background. This is not unusual in biopics, which frequently turn artists into substance abusers and sexual adventurers who just happened to cut a few records or paint a few pictures on their way to redemption. “The Iron Lady,” following this template, makes a particular hash of British history, compressing social and economic turmoil into a shorthand that resembles a chronologically scrambled British version of Billy Joel's "We Didn't Start the Fire." (Miners’ strike/Falklands War/I can’t take it any more ... .)

Village Voice, Karina Longworth:

Despite the story's conceit of placing the viewer inside Thatcher's head, she never feels like a real person—but this is more the fault of Morgan's script than Streep's typically studied performance, much of it buried under prosthetics. In her glory years, even behind closed doors, Thatcher is all campaign-speak bombast; later, she's a cartoon of old age, with the camera angled to emphasize her skewed point of view.


Salon, Andrew O'Hehir:

Streep is so powerful as Margaret Thatcher in director Phyllida Lloyd’s “The Iron Lady” that she made me believe I understood the legendary and ferocious former British prime minister much better than I had before. That may be an illusion, of course; Streep does not know Thatcher personally, and neither do you or I.

Rolling Stone, Peter Travers:

But then Streep and director Phyllida Lloyd (Mamma Mia!) are hunting different game than the usual biopic. The Iron Lady – a kind of female spin on King Lear – is framed with Thatcher – weakened by old age and encroaching dementia (great makeup; J. Edgar, take note) – remembering her youth, her fight for political prominence in a world of men, her marriage to businessman Denis Thatcher (Jim Broadbent) and her neglect of him and their two children. Thatcher's chats with the ghost of her dead husband (bravo, Broadbent) are wonderfully droll. The sharp economy of Lloyd's direction allows the incontestably great Streep to take impressionistic snatches of a life and build a woman in full. This is acting of the highest order.


Time Entertainment, Richard Corliss:

The real Thatcher, so distinct, driven and humorless that she was her own "Spitting Image" parody, gets softened in Streep’s caring hands, to the extent that even those of the hostile persuasion may feel the strange stirrings of affection, sympathy and pity. The movie is a nice surprise too. Under the direction of Phyllida Lloyd — who, after her crass film debut with "Mamma Mia!" makes a giant leap into competence — "The Iron Lady" is a clever and oddly touching entertainment.


Film Threat, Phil Hall:

The basic problem with this concept is that it is borderline libelous in its depiction of today’s Thatcher as a hallucinatory old loon who bickers with her ghostly husband – he behaves like a “Carry On” buffoon while she pours herself generous glassfuls of whiskey. From what I can gather via press reports, Thatcher has been in poor health over the past decade following a series of mini-strokes. Yet you wouldn’t know that from this film, which has Thatcher engaged in vigorous housecleaning and endless fiery monologues – not exactly the kind of behavior that one associates with an elderly woman recovering from a series of strokes.


Movieline, Stephanie Zacharek


In The Iron Lady, Streep plays Margaret Thatcher, and boy, does she play her: It's not just the crafty prosthetics, the careful swooping of the powdery-no-color hair, the meticulously chosen jacket-and-skirt ensembles that conjure the chilly specter of the seemingly indestructible former Prime Minister of Great Britain. Everything Streep does -- her strutting-pigeon walk, the way she purses her lips just so after making a particularly harsh pronouncement in the presence of her cabinet -- suggests many hours' worth of vocal exercises and scholarly dissection of video footage… Yet Streep's performance doesn't exist inside a bubble, and it's of a piece with the picture's conception of Thatcher as a not-bad lady who actually had some good points, if you squint really hard.


The A.V. Club, Tasha Robinson:

In that moment, Streep’s steely determination and the film’s rise-to-power drama recall the exaggerated fire of "Elizabeth" more than the realistic, stately calm of "The Queen." But director Phyllida Lloyd ("Mamma Mia!") conveys too many of Thatcher’s efforts, ups, and downs through upbeat musical montages and parades of interactions without weight. Only the present-day material—the most fictionalized, dramatic, and personal scenes—brings across real, raw emotion and motivations. Strangely, this Thatcher biopic might have been far more worthwhile if it wasn’t about Thatcher: The aged, dotty stranger hanging out with her dead husband is a more compelling subject.
 

29 Comments

  • Keith Lott | January 4, 2012 11:28 AMReply

    I am disgusted that this film has been made. Thatcher was a tyrant and for those who grew up in the areas she ravaged such as Merseyside, and saw loved ones die, because they did not have money or employment, as she went about ripping the industry out of the area and replacing it with nothing, its a massive insult, that a biopic of her life has been made. I bet it does not mention in this film how the Conserative party were happy to allow 'The Managed Decline of the Merseyside Area', thats an entire region they were happy to let waste away to nothing, that has just been doing the rounds in the media. I know everyone here in the Merseyside area feels the same, this film is a disgrace to just skip over how much damaged she did, to ordinary working class people such as myself and to our loved ones who are no longer here because of her policies. The Conseratives and especially Margret Thatcher are still not welcome on Merseyside, even now, doesn't that tell you all you need to know about how much damage she and her party did. Total Disgrace.

  • Obviously Not | January 3, 2012 6:58 PMReply

    People are flocking to the theaters and her performance receives nothing but heaping superlatives from critics and ordinary moviegoers (except from a few who are obviously ignoramus of what acting is all about). And I'm not seeing STREEP under BP category (which she would probably win just by name power)

  • Wothers | January 2, 2012 8:08 AMReply

    A very boring film. Streep has a dreadful script to work with. Don't expect to come away from this film with any insights into Thatcher's life or motivations. Are all the men in the conservative Party in Britain as one dimensional as the characters in this film? About half the film is devoted to Thatcher's later life, bumbling around in a haze of dementia.

  • karma | January 3, 2012 6:27 PM

    boring and dismissed - that will be your life story too in the near future, pray, with no dementia

  • peter | January 1, 2012 10:33 AMReply

    don't care what anyone says...the award is for the best performance and this year it belongs beyond a doubt to meryl streep.....it is unbelievable, far and above the competition..meryl is thatcher and that is the film...it is not a political treatise or excercise in ideology for people to argue about...that is another movie, a documentary...i don't even consider this a biopic but a study, an interpretation of a persons life...it is an artistic statement about emotions and personal consequences of actions....criticism of her performance is thinly veiled criticism of thatcher; rightly deserved but misdirected at the film and streep. if she doesn't get the oscar it will just show the lack of critical judgement by the academy that is already being shown by some critics and viewers.........

  • gabriel | December 31, 2011 12:01 PMReply

    57% http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/the_iron_lady/
    Average Rating: 6/10

    It's a wrap. I'm sad for Streep...

  • Justice | January 3, 2012 6:24 PM

    Dont be. She tops the box office and will even be rewarded in the Berlin Film Festival, a feat most actors wont receive even if they live a hundred a reincarnations.

  • Jamie | December 30, 2011 10:59 AMReply

    If I remember correctly...Sophie's Choice as a movie was not well reviewed either and did not hurt Streep.....only people talking about Viola Davis are the LA oscar experts who are so passionate that she wins an Oscar in a movie that while a huge box office success is equally flawed in its "Fried Green Tomato" mentality......There is no escaping the buzz Meryl has this year....the performance not the movie will stand

  • Alison | December 30, 2011 3:09 AMReply

    5 star performance in a 3 star movie.

  • Miki67 | December 30, 2011 10:49 AM

    A 1 star review of a 0 star movie....you know nothing about film,and even less of the suffering this psychopathic woman inflicted on millions of British people.....REAL people,not visual facsimiles.
    That this movie was made at all is worthy of criminal prosecution.

  • Mark Rabinowitz | December 30, 2011 1:40 AMReply

    The film is revisionist dreck. Boring and ill-informed, the best performance in the history of film couldn't make this a good film.

  • Miki67 | December 29, 2011 8:35 PMReply

    This movie is a disgrace:at a time when the UK is being ravaged by neo-Thatcherite policies,this air-brushed portrayal of a fascist ideologue makes a mockery of all the suffering this insane cretin inflicted on millions of British people,then,and now. Meryl Streep is a hammish buffoon in her portrayal of Thatcher,and should she win the Oscar for this shameless acting,in 2012,then we will alll know how far down the road to madness the world has travelled.

  • Nadine | January 1, 2012 1:03 PM

    @PCNAV... how profound... @MIKI67 - You've so hit the nail on the head about Thatcher. Streep is an acting legend, but Thatcher "lite"... no way... Thatcher was very real with very real policies and ideologies which attempted to decimate specific classes o people. This movie was a shame.

  • pcnav | December 30, 2011 5:29 AM

    If you want you can have Obama...

  • Milk | December 29, 2011 8:14 PMReply

    How can people be talking about an Oscar for Streep when her performance has no link with reality? When I saw the trailer for this film I thought it seemed offensive enough to justify being my first ever illegal download. The more I read about it the less it seems to even merit that. I also find myself not wanting to watch another Streep film for a while.

  • Coffee | January 3, 2012 6:34 PM

    no link to reality? do you think you will be exempted from being old and neglected and forgotten even if you were once the most powerful?

  • cadavra | December 29, 2011 7:20 PMReply

    The woods are full of award-winning performances in mediocre (or worse) movies, and this is no different. Streep is as sure a bet as anything this year.

  • Stephen Holt | December 29, 2011 6:24 PMReply

    Yes, Anne, I think this WILL effect Streep's 3rd Oscar chances. Badly. The film is soooo conservative and arch-right-wing and every British person who lived under her "rule" hated her. And still does. They get apoplectic on the subject. And the left-leaning Academy is not going to go for this either. So this is VERY good news for Michelle Williams. Which is also Harvey's film, BTW.

  • Really | January 3, 2012 6:37 PM

    How so? Her movie is not earning, meaning no one's watching. Will Harvey like that? The Iron Lady tops the box office

  • ivan | December 30, 2011 7:30 AM

    I agree,this is great news for Michelle Williams.

  • pcnav | December 30, 2011 5:33 AM

    Why does anyone care about who wins an oscar? These people are actors...the most useless and overpaid people on the face of the earth.

  • Andrea | December 30, 2011 1:04 AM

    Stephen Holt your such a moron. If The Iron Lady's reviews hurt Streep, I got news for you, My Week With Marilyn's WEAK box office is certainly going to hurt Williams. It has barely grossed 7 million.

    I still say Viola Davis is going to win it in the end.

  • Steve Rodman | December 29, 2011 6:13 PMReply

    I'm sick of these lazy, snooty critics who keep panning the film. If the performance is great, which seems to be the consensus, then that should carry the film enough to make it worth seeing and entertaining.
    I am very much worried that with these silly critics, Meryl will once again be robbed of that third Oscar which is long overdue.

  • Nadine | January 1, 2012 1:13 PM

    I understand you may LIKE the film, but if one is familiar with the actual history, Thatcher and her policies .. the movie would appear shocking. Streep, as always, is amazing... I'm thinking a lot of the negative reviews have more to do with the content than with Streep.

  • Miki6£ | December 30, 2011 10:51 AM

    Get real,you ignoramus.

  • sean | December 29, 2011 5:46 PMReply

    Reviews won't matter in this case. If they were flat out PANS that is one thing, but I have only seen one ONE star review. In any case, the consensus is Streep is worthy regardless of the finish product. This is obviously Streep's year. Davis, as much as bloggers think she is IT because of the big box office, are mistaken. Williams is the threat, but her weirdo personality will turn people off, wait until she attempts a GG speech lol

  • Steve G | December 29, 2011 5:09 PMReply

    The Iron Lady opened here in Australia on Boxing Day and is reportedly the No. 1 film in limited release. Audiences are flocking to it and if the BO is equally positive in the US, I suspect that will be enough to overcome the middling reviews.

  • Henry VIII | December 29, 2011 3:32 PMReply

    And yet, Elizabeth Olsen and Charlize Theron have to fight it out for a spot in the top 5. It's a mad mad world.

  • Ric | December 30, 2011 2:10 PM

    That, is perspective, personally Olsen should be in conversation for one of the worst performances in a perceived to be Oscar film, and Theron gave a middling performance.

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