THE IRON LADY
Taking Meryl Streep out of The Iron Lady and replacing her with just about any other actress would be akin to removing the meat out of a beef stroganoff dinner and replacing it with a Hostess Twinkie. The result would be a thoroughly indigestible mess, worthy only of being flung into the garbage bin.
Yes, Streep delivers yet another note-perfect performance, although it must be said that 1) 2011 was such a formidable year for female leads that she hardly deserves making the Academy's Best Actress list (though of course she will), and 2) her turn is as much surface mimicry as heartfelt emoting, which usually isn't the case with this remarkable talent able to bury herself into just about any role.
But move beyond her eye-catching work and what remains is a poor movie that does little to illuminate the life and times of Margaret Thatcher, the controversial British Prime Minister who held the position throughout the 1980s.
Forget for a minute the movie's soft-pedaling of its central character. Since filmmakers usually desire to be as demographically friendly as possible in order to attract audiences of all stripes, it's no surprise that director Phyllida Lloyd and scripter Abi Morgan fail to devote much time to Thatcher's ample failings, including her abhorrent attitudes toward the poor, the unemployed and even her fellow women.
Yet even her few strengths (rising from modest origins, sticking it to the boys' club of British politics, reinstilling a sense of national pride much like her BFF Ronald Reagan was doing stateside) are treated in CliffsNotes fashion, since an oversized amount of the picture focuses on her waning years as a lonely woman suffering from mild dementia, believing she's being frequently visited by her deceased husband Denis (a wasted Jim Broadbent).
With so much history and personality to draw upon, it's infuriating that so much of the running time is wasted on mere speculation involving an elderly person's flights of fancy (a problem that also plagued Clint Eastwood's J. Edgar); these sequences, popping up every few minutes, effectively destroy any sense of pacing or continuity and ineptly attempt to soften a world figure who didn't exactly earn her titular nickname by publicly surrounding herself with Paddington Bear dolls.