“The Iron Lady,” reviewed


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A few years ago, The Onion wrote an incredible article about Meryl Streep called “Name One Masterpiece Of Cinema That I’ve Starred In.” The commentary, written in Streep’s voice, savagely ridiculed — and astutely observed — the fact that Streep, maybe our greatest living actress, does not have the greatest filmmography. She’s appeared in a couple memorable movies — “The Deer Hunter,” “Kramer Vs. Kramer” — but not many. “Go ahead,” “Streep” writes, “try and name a classic movie I’ve starred in. Not a classic character I’ve portrayed, mind you, but an overall amazing piece of cinema. You can’t. You just can’t.” Streep’s turn as former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in “The Iron Lady” is another none-too-classic example.

That’s despite the fact that Streep gives another chameleonic performance, almost two chameleonic performances, in two distinct time periods: in the 1970s and 80s, as Thatcher in her prime, and in the modern day, as Thatcher in the throes of dementia, hermit-like and trapped in conversation with the ghost of her dead husband Denis (Jim Broadbent). As usual, Streep’s work is technically remarkable. Age, build, posture, accent, hair, temperament, Streep nails them all. If you want to be awed by a performance, “The Iron Lady” is for you.

If you wanted to be awed by a movie, though, you’ll need to look elsewhere. The early scenes establish the structure: Streep as the decrepit Thatcher attempts to finally get rid of her husband’s possessions. Rummaging through her past keys flashbacks to Thatcher’s early life, falling in love with Denis and rising to power in the Conservative Party. At first the backwards glances are brief. But as the film progresses, they begin to dominate the runtime until Thatcher — and director Phyllida Lloyd and screenwriter Abi Morgan — are totally lost in her memories. The increasingly frantic pacing of the flashbacks may have been Lloyd and Morgan’s way of mimicking the confusion of an aging woman’s mind, but they also kill whatever little drama there was in the film. Eventually “The Iron Lady” devolves into a SportsCenter highlight reel of a woman’s life, a series of meaningless and insubstantial scenelets whose only evident purpose is to make sure Streep has plenty of showcases for her impressive performance.

Streep is undeniably impressive throughout, and her resolve and determination through the weaker stretches of the film is positively Thatcherian. But whether she demanded it be or not, “The Iron Lady” is less of a movie than a showcase for Streep. There’s no tension here, just that big voice and brassy haircut. To use another sports metaphor, if Streep were a baseball player, she would be Barry Bonds: blessed with incredible natural gifts but seemingly more interested in personal accomplishments than team ones. Bonds holds all the home run records but he never won a World Series. Similarly, Streep’s won every accolade imaginable for her work, but the Best Picture Oscars have been few and far between (the last one came for 1985’s “Out of Africa”).

Come to think of it, what about “Game of Shadows” as her next project?

“The Iron Lady” opens in limited release on Friday. If you see it, let us know what you think in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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Documentary Now! Robert Evans Mansion

The Reel Deal

Everything You Need To Know About “Mr. Runner Up” Inspiration Robert Evans

Watch the two-part finale of Documentary Now! this Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection

In its upcoming two-part finale, Documentary Now! spoofs the crown jewel of docs: The Kid Stays In The Picture. It’s the autobiographical documentary about Robert Evans, the unlikely Hollywood mogul whose mix of self-aggrandizing bravado, classic good looks and extremely circumstantial good luck took him from being a salesman to an actor to the head of Paramount Pictures.

If you’ve never seen the film, it’s totally worth it. Rotten Tomatoes agrees, with a staggeringly-high approval rating. Watch it before, or watch it after — doesn’t matter. You’ll appreciate it whenever.

In the meantime, here’s a bit of background that will come in handy…

Robert Loves Robert

Robert Evans desk

USA Films/Everett Collection

Robert Evans is the ultimate Robert Evans fan. The movie was narrated by Robert Evans and based on his memoir of the same name. It is totally unbiased.

He’s Kind Of A Big Deal

Robert Evans, Chinatown
Paramount Pictures

Evans produced some of Hollywood’s true classics: Chinatown, Rosemary’s Baby, The Godfather, Love Story…the list goes on. Totally legit and amazing movies.

He’s Also Kind Of A Joke

Wag The Dog
New Line Cinema

Evans has been parodied in TV shows and movies like Entourage and Wag The Dog. He is the quintessential “producer” you already have in your head.

So Wrong He’s Right

Robert Evans Slap
20th Century Film Corp

Robert Evans is a notorious narcissist whose love of self is so blind and sincere that it’s actually adorable.

There’s Something Missing

via Giphy

Entire sections of Robert Evans’ life are left out of the documentary. Maybe it’s because of timing. Maybe it’s because real life isn’t a tidy narrative. Who knows.

He Blew It

Spider coke

Evans had a pretty spectacular fall from grace. He was convicted of cocaine trafficking in the early 80’s, and was connected to a contract killing during the production of The Cotton Club. Oops.

Losing Is For Losers

Everett Collection
Everett Collection

In the Robert Evans mythology, all tragedies are just triumphs in disguise, and every story has a happy ending…for Robert Evans.

Bill Hader Jerry Wallach

With these simple facts in hand you are now prepared to thoroughly enjoy the two-part finale of Documentary Now! starting this Wednesday at 10/9c on IFC.

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Weird Roles

Anthony Michael Hall’s Most Rotten Movies

Catch Anthony Michael Hall in Weird Science on Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal/Everett Collection

Anthony Michael Hall was the quintessential ’80s nerd. We love him in classics like The Breakfast Club and National Lampoon’s Vacation. But even the brainiest among us has his weak spots. In honor of Weird Science airing this Rotten Friday, we analyze Hall’s worst movies.

Weird Science (1985) 56%

A low point for John Hughes, Weird Science is way too wacky for its own good. Anthony Michael Hall’s Gary and his pal Wyatt (Ilan Mitchell-Smith) create the “perfect woman.” Supernatural chaos ensues. The film costars a young Bill Paxton, floppy disks, and a general disconnect from all reality.

The Caveman’s Valentine (2001) 46%

This ambitious drama starring Samuel L. Jackson couldn’t live up to its rich premise. Jackson plays Romulus, a Juilliard-educated, paranoid schizophrenic who lives in a cave. Hall co-stars as Bob, a rich man, who wants to see Romulus play the piano. The plot centers around Romulus investigating a murder, but with so much going on, the movie never quite finds its rhythm.

All About the Benjamins (2002) 30%

Ice Cube plays a bounty hunter who teams up with Mike Epps’ con man to catch diamond thieves. Hall plays Lil J, a small-time drug dealer. It’s definitely a role we’ve never seen Hall in, but overall the movie isn’t funny or original enough to justify its violence.

Freddy Got Fingered (2001) 11%

This showcase for Tom Green’s goofy gross-out comedy is often hailed as one of the worst films of all time. Green plays Gord, a 20-something slacker, who dreams of having his own animated series. Hall is Dave Davidson, a CEO of an animation studio who eventually helps Gord find success. Too bad Tom Green wasn’t so lucky.

Johnny Be Good (1988) 0%

Hall plays against type as Johnny Walker, a star quarterback. Robert Downey Jr. is his best friend and Uma Thurman plays his devoted girlfriend. Despite the support of a future A-list cast, the movie lacks central conflict and charm. Or, as TV Guide put it, “Johnny be worthless.” Ouch.

Catch the “Too Rotten to Miss” Weird Science this Friday at 8P on IFC.

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Season 6: Episode 1: Pickathon

Binge Fest

Portlandia Season 6 Now Available On DVD

The perfect addition to your locally-sourced, artisanal DVD collection.

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End of summer got you feeling like:

Portlandia Toni Screaming GIF

Ease into fall with Portlandia‘s sixth season. Relive the latest exploits of Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein’s cast of characters, including Doug and Claire’s poignant breakup, Lance’s foray into intellectual society, and the terrifying rampage of a tsukemen Noodle Monster! Plus, guest stars The Flaming Lips, Glenn Danzig, Louis C.K., Kevin Corrigan, Zoë Kravitz, and more stop by to experience what Portlandia is all about.

Pick up a copy of the DVD today, or watch full episodes and series extras now on IFC.com and the IFC app.

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