“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.

Home for the Holidays

Pass the Dysfunction

10 Thanksgiving Movies to Be Thankful For

Gorge on IFC's four-day Sweatsgiving Marathon this Thanksgiving Day Weekend.

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Photo Credit: Everett Collection

There’s a movie for every holiday (well, maybe not Arbor Day), but Thanksgiving has more than its share. There’s something about a family coming together around an overloaded table that makes for gripping drama and hilarious comedy. Before you tuck into IFC’s Sweatsgiving marathon weekend, take a look at our picks for the best Turkey Day movies of all time. They’re far tastier than Aunt Bertha’s leftover three-bean casserole.

10. ThanksKilling

This ultra low-budget horror comedy about a killer Turkey is the perfect NSFW antidote to heartwarming holiday treacle. Fans of the film’s so-bad-its-good charms helped Kickstart a sequel, ThanksKilling 3. What happened to ThanksKilling 2? Guess the killer turkey ate the print.

9. The Ice Storm

Key parties, family secrets and Nixon masks all converge in one particularly eventful Thanksgiving weekend in Ang Lee’s searing look at dysfunctional families in the turbulent days of the early ’70s. And you thought your post-dinner family games of Trivial Pursuit were tense.

8. Pieces of April

Katie Holmes broke free from her teen drama roots with this indie flick about a young urban misfit who invites her straight-laced suburban family to a big city Thanksgiving dinner. An underrated comedy about the importance of families (be they urban or biological) that also answers the age-old holiday question: canned or fresh cranberry sauce?

7. Tadpole

What is it with Thanksgiving and quasi-incest comedies? 2002’s Tadpole tells the tale of Oscar Grubman, a hyper-intelligent high school boy who has a crippling crush on his stepmother. When he goes home for Thanksgiving, this Oedipal nightmare gets transferred onto a horny cougar chiropractor, and things rapidly spin out of control. A general rule of thumb for the holidays: keep it in your pants, particularly when family is involved.

6. Scent Of A Woman

Al Pacino comes dangerously close to the edge of self-parody in his iconic role as blind ex-Army Ranger Frank Slade, but also scored a Best Actor win in the process. Chris O’Donnell plays the college student who is hired to take care of Slade over Thanksgiving break and finds himself dragged along on an adventure that includes a stop by his brother’s house for a Turkey Day dinner that goes wildly out of control. Hoo-hah! Pass the gravy.

5. The House Of Yes

This psychologically twisted 1997 black comedy helped make Parker Posey a star. She plays “Jackie-O” Pascal, a mentally disturbed young woman who joins her family at their ritzy Virginia estate for Thanksgiving. As a hurricane bears down on the area, Jackie proceeds to go further and further off the rails, capped off by an incestuous encounter with her own brother while they role-play the JFK assassination. With a strong cast and a wickedly sharp script, The House of Yes goes down like a slice of pumpkin pie with a whiskey chaser.

4. The War At Home

This underrated 1996 drama tackled some pretty tough subjects. Jeremy Collier (played by Emilio Estevez, who also directed) is a Vietnam vet back home and dealing with PTSD. Martin Sheen plays his dad, who doesn’t understand that his son came back a little changed. It all comes to a head at the family’s Thanksgiving dinner, where Jeremy pulls a gun on his dad because he wouldn’t loan him the cash he needed to flee the draft. The fact that Estevez and Sheen are father and son in real life only adds to the film’s dramatic tension.

3. Home for the Holidays

Few films capture the mix of dysfunction and warmth that comes with Thanksgiving better than Jodie Foster’s 1995 comedy. Holly Hunter and Robert Downey, Jr. are perfectly cast as a brother and sister weathering uptight siblings, kooky aunts and other family drama with sharp humor and lump-in-your throat tearful moments. We’re not crying. Mom must be cooking her famous onion soup.

2. Hannah and Her Sisters

Widely considered one of the best films in Woody Allen’s vast filmography, Hannah and Her Sisters charts the lives of three very different sisters over the course of three separate Thanksgivings. The holiday serves as a backdrop that reminds us of the ties that bind and also tear us down.

1. Planes, Trains And Automobiles

No movie captures the ups and downs of Thanksgiving quite like this John Hughes classic. Steve Martin plays Neal Page, a high-strung marketing suit who gets paired with John Candy’s slobby salesman Del Griffith as they both try to get back to Chicago in time for the holiday. Hughes was a master of tapping into some very American emotions, and the movie’s climax — where (spoiler alert!) Neal realizes Del has nowhere to go and invites him to come to dinner with his family — is a touching moment that in lesser hands would come off as maudlin.


Todd Margaret Returns

David Cross and Todd Margaret Are Returning to IFC In January

Todd Margaret returns to IFC on January 7th, 2016.

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Crack open your stockpiled hoards of Thunder Muscle, because David Cross’ series Todd Margaret is returning to IFC for a third season. The show will return on Thursday, January 7th, 2016 with the first three episodes of the six-episode series airing back-to-back beginning at 10PM ET/PT. The remaining three episodes will premiere the following week on Thursday, January 14th at 10pm ET/PT.

Season two of Todd Margaret ended with a literal bang, with Todd blowing up the world as he continued to make increasingly poor decisions in his role as an American titan of industry. “Since we last saw Todd Margaret, which we thought was actually the last time we’d see him, this show has become a favorite among comedy fans,” commented Jennifer Caserta, IFC’s president. “Only David Cross could write his way around destroying the world to resurrect this character and story in a way that’s mind blowing and completely hilarious.”

In season three, fans will meet a very different Todd as the creators guide him on a journey which goes to some truly unexpected places. In addition to Cross, the new season will feature Jack McBrayer (30 Rock) along with Will Arnett (Arrested Development, BoJack Horseman), Blake Harrison (The Inbetweeners 2), Sharon Horgan (Catastrophe), Amber Tamblyn (Two and a Half Men) and Russ Tamblyn (Django Unchained), who return to the series playing familiar characters…with a twist. Check back for more Todd Margaret updates as we head to the big premiere in January.


New Arrivals

This Week on IFC: Benders and Gigi Does It Are Here!

Benders and Gigi Does It invade IFC Thursday, October 1st starting at 10P.

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This Thursday, October 1st, get to know two great new shows on IFC. At 10P, get on the ice and join the team on Benders. On the premiere episode, Paul’s (Andrew Schulz) grandpa makes him an offer he can’t refuse, even if it interferes with his busy schedule of hockey playing and beer drinking.

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The stay tuned at 10:30P for Gigi Does It, the new show starring David Krumholtz as a grandma who gets her groove back. This week, Gigi Rotblum inherits her late husband’s secret fortune, hires an assistant (Ricky Mabe), and takes unexpected measures to protect herself. James Urbaniak (Difficult People) guest stars.

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Can’t wait until Thursday? We’ve got you covered. Click below to watch FREE episodes of Benders and Gigi Does It.

Watch an episode of Benders

Watch an episode of Gigi Does It

In addition to YouTube and right here on IFC.com, an episode each of Benders and Gigi Does It can be seen on VOD and TV Everywhere platforms through IFC’s cable partners.


This Week on IFC

Benders Meet a Soprano, Gigi Writes a Book and Comedy Bang! Bang! is Back!

Thursday on IFC is the place to be starting at 10P.

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After Benders big premiere last week, the guys meet an actual Soprano. That’s right, Bobby Baccalieri himself, Steve Schirripa, guest stars as a tough guy shaking down the crew. Check out a clip below, and tune in on Thursday at 10P to see if any of the Uncle Chubbys crew gets whacked.

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On the second episode of Gigi Does It, Gigi Rotblum has a plan to get her grandson to respect his elders – she’s going to write a children’s book, just like the one by Harry Potter author J.K. Simmons. Gigi Does It airs on Thursday at 10:30P. Watch a sneak peek below.

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And, finally, as a thank you for waiting patiently for the return of Comedy Bang! Bang!, check out a list of the show’s top 5 “beefs.” Does Fourvel make an appearance? Watch below, and be sure to catch the return of Comedy Bang! Bang! in its NEW TIME SLOT Thursdays at 11P.

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