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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Meryl's Latest Metamorphosis

Nobody does drag like Meryl Streep. Notice the arch similarity of Meryl as Maggie and Milton Berle as Cleopatra.
Ah, Meryl and Berle! Lovely together, no? Meryl, seen here in drag as Prime Minister, and Uncle Miltie all dolled up as a queen: Hollywood royalty!

Fairly fresh from her star turn as Julia Child in Julie & Julia, the mercurial Meryl now transforms herself into Margaret Thatcher for the biopic, The Iron Lady. (Not a spin-off of Iron Man.) And I have to admit: I love this movie!

Ms Streep is one of today's movie stars who consistently astonishes in one role after another. Singing ABBA; playing a bitter, old nun; portraying Julia Child; being Doris Day (It's Complicated), Meryl took the knowing camp turn a great screen actress (a'la Bette Davis or Joan Crawford) does once she reaches a certain age. This probably began with Devil Wears Prada.

Reunited with her Mama Mia director, Phyllidia Lloyd, the two are up to great things. Politics put aside, The Iron Lady is presented as a star-driven women's picture. Meryl's Margaret struggles to get to the top, sacrificing attention to family and denying her feelings in order to get there, all the while wearing increasingly grander frocks in the trademark, tailored Thatcher style, and in the style of the classic women's picture as well.

Framed by showing Thatcher in her dotage, the film uses the conventional biopic flashback technique to show her rise from grocer's daughter to Prime Minister of England, warts and all. It's Thatcher's megalomania and grandiosity, her dogmatic pedanticalness, as much as her failing policies, that bring her to her downfall. Weepy moments and slyly funny ones abound en route.

You can despise Thatcher but completely enjoy The Iron Lady, oddly. Certainly, as an old-Hollywood-styled star vehicle, Ms Streep is in almost every frame and she carries this film magnificently on her shoulders in one of the very best performances of her career.

You might get a glimpse of what I mean from this trailer:

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