Like a lot of biopics I see starring a tremendous actor in an Oscar-worthy turn, the performance trumps the movie around it.
Stars by their definition get the most screen time and the best lines of dialogue. But when it’s a film about a historical figure, with lots of big events and emotions, oftentimes the performer can be so dominant the story can’t get any air.
“The Iron Lady” follows in this tradition, featuring Meryl Streep in a role so meaty – British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher – the rest of the movie occasionally turns to mush.
Streep is so good she carries the picture during the insipid stretches, such as when she’s battling her government underlings like a schoolmarm fussing at some ill-behaved boys in knee pants.
The film reaches a brighter note when Thatcher is communing with the spirit of her deceased husband, Denis (Jim Broadbent). It’s not delusion; they both acknowledge he’s dead. It’s just neither one wants to lose whatever argument they’re having.
In the end, “The Iron Lady” is worth watching just to see the way Streep nails the iconic Thatcher, from that swoop of sprayed hair to the commanding screech of a voice.