May 19, 2013
Written by Mark Schumann, Father of Three
Thursday, 22 December 2011 11:38
Each week, the Reel Dad checks the nutritional value of a movie - new or classic - to help parents choose what to watch. This week’s pick is a new film starring Meryl Streep, The Iron Lady.No matter what age we are, we may fear getting older. Perhaps we worry about how we will change or how our abilities may be limited. Perhaps our concerns relate to how we will take care of our finances and health. Or perhaps we fear we may forget what we have experienced during our lives.
The marvelous Meryl Streep creates a most thoughtful examination of aging in the new film The Iron Lady. In her fascinating portrayal of Margaret Thatcher, the longest-serving Prime Minister in British history, this most accomplished actress reaches beyond a standard recreation of a political figure to develop a multi-layered portrayal of a woman in emotional torment. This former world leader knows, on one level, who she is and what she thinks. But, as she ages, she simply can’t find that woman, no matter how thoughtfully she may search. Streep’s complex performance is one of the most compelling of her career and, deservedly, was named the year’s best by the New York Film Critics.
As a film, The Iron Lady does not rely on the standard biographical narrative to serve its leading actress. The film begins later in Thatcher’s life as she spends her days doing household tasks, keeping track of news events, and talking with her husband, Dennis. The only problem is Dennis is no longer living; the conversations occur in Thatcher’s mind. And, together, they recall a series of meaningful events in this great politician’s life and career.
While the framework may sound familiar, the emerging sequences are fresh. In her younger years, Thatcher is a determined woman who, while recognizing the natural expectations of the sexes in the mid-20th century, believes there is a role for women in politics. Later, in her most productive years, Thatcher emerges as a careful, studied politician who rehearses her spontaneity, dismisses her critics and nurtures her vision for what Britain can be. Ultimately, she becomes a loving and confused woman who simply wonders what she can no longer remember.
Streep commands as Thatcher. The actress perfectly captures the essence of Thatcher’s passion in flashbacks that show how the politician becomes a world leader. In these sequences, Streep doesn’t play Thatcher as much as she becomes Thatcher; rather than copying Thatcher’s mannerisms, she interprets the mannerisms to tell the story. Streep’s scenes as the older, struggling Thatcher are as moving as any she has created for the screen, as the former leader struggles to find words, recall moments and simply remember the extraordinary woman she is. And Streep makes it all look so easy. She is too smart an actress to ever let us see how hard she works. On screen, she simply is.
We may fear how we age and wonder what those years may bring. The Iron Lady offers insight into the challenges one great lady faces. Meryl Streep, who gets better with each year, uses this role to deliver a master class in screen acting. She is the best actress working in films by stretching her talent with every role she portrays. Streep is, simply, ageless.
The Iron Lady
* Content: High. In addition to highlighting the achievements of Margaret Thatcher, the film thoughtfully explores the impact of aging.
* Entertainment: High. As interesting as the content may be, it also entertains with its rich characters and historical situations.
* Message: High. For any of us who are close to senior citizens, the film inspires us to react with kindness, support with patience and listen with sincerity.
* Relevance: High. No matter what age we may be, this lesson in how people age is important for us to experience.
* Opportunity for Dialogue: High. After you share this film, talk with your older children about impact of age on all of our lives.
(The Iron Lady is rated PG-13 and runs 105 minutes.)
4-1/2 Popcorn Buckets
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