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The Iron Lady Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy Review

The Iron Lady (2011) movie poster The Iron Lady

Theatrical Release: December 30, 2011 / Running Time: 105 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Phyllida Lloyd / Writer: Abi Morgan / Songs List

Cast: Meryl Streep (Margaret Thatcher), Jim Broadbent (Denis Thatcher), Olivia Colman (Carol Thatcher), Roger Allam (Gordon Reece), Susan Brown (June), Nick Dunning (Jim Prior), Nicholas Farrell (Airey Neave), Iain Glen (Alfred Roberts), Richard E. Grant (Michael Heseltine), Anthony Head (Geoffrey Howe), Harry Lloyd (Young Denis Thatcher), Michael Maloney (Doctor), Michael Pennington (Michael Foot), Alexandra Roach (Young Margaret Thatcher), Amanda Root (Amanda), Pip Torrens (Ian Gilmour), Julian Wadham (Francis Pym), David Westhead (Shadow Minister), Angus Wright (John Nott)

Buy The Iron Lady from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy • DVD • Instant Video

The first and thus far only female Prime Minister of the United Kingdom gets the biopic treatment in The Iron Lady. Margaret Thatcher would appear to be one of the juiciest and most fitting historical figures for Meryl Streep to portray. That inspired casting explains how this project not only got off the ground,
but made it to theaters all over the world, including a fairly substantial 1,200-screen engagement in the States.

The undisputed queen of film acting since the late 1970s, Streep has recently become one of the biggest female movie stars out there. Scarcely do we see women over 40 get leading roles in mainstream nationwide releases. When we do, it is usually Streep commanding the film to profitability. In just the past few years, Streep has carried The Devil Wears Prada, Mamma Mia!, Julie & Julia, and It's Complicated to or near $100 million domestic grosses. What other leading lady can claim as many recent hits? Not Sandra Bullock, not Julia Roberts, not Katherine Heigl, not Anne Hathaway. Jennifer Aniston can, but as her many vocal detractors will tell you, credit for her successes can easily go to co-stars (be they a canine or Adam Sandler) or concepts (like Horrible Bosses). The busy Aniston has had her share of box office duds and of course she isn't exactly winning accolades for her work (although she does have a two-year streak of Razzie nominations). Next to Streep's, no actress' IMDb awards page impresses. The 62-year-old has seventeen Oscar nods to her name, far more than any other actor in cinema history. And three of those have produced wins, with The Iron Lady giving Streep her first Oscar victory in almost thirty years.

Streep plays the currently 86-year-old Thatcher at most stages of her life. We open in the present day to find her somewhat out of place and out of sorts, plagued by Alzheimer's disease. Thatcher regularly communicates with her husband Denis (Jim Broadbent), even though he died in 2003. The spousal hallucinations are kind of a tacky design and Thatcher's battles with dementia seem somehow insensitive. But Streep is terrifically aged up and transformed, efforts that won the film a second Academy Award, for Best Makeup.

Meryl Streep plays Margaret Thatcher, a female Prime Minister in the male-dominated world of British politics.

Now and then, Thatcher's mundane modern existence of scheduling appearances and signing books takes her (and us) back in time. She recalls her young adulthood (with Alexandra Roach playing the part), in which she, a grocer's daughter became a University of Oxford alum and managed to get a seat in the male-dominated world of Parliament, eventually rising to Education Secretary and the leader of the Conservative Party.

Thatcher is portrayed as a fiercely independent woman, her pearls and blue ensembles setting her apart from her traditional colleagues. Of course, she is elected Prime Minister, first receiving some dialect coaching and image consultation. Her 11½-year term is shown to be tumultuous, though not in the clearest of ways. The people of England are bothered by issues of unemployment and taxation. IRA terrorism doesn't help either.

Personally, I have difficulty understanding citizens getting so worked up about certain issues as to passionately rally and risk being stomped on by police horses. If you are not politically active or versed in British government of the late 20th century, you too will find it hard to appreciate the chaos conveyed in shorthand. The film does not seem interested in dissecting Thatcher's run in meaningful terms. It would rather string together a montage from real historical footage (poorly stretched from old TV standards to fill the 2.35:1 frame) and throw a sound bite or two at you.

Thatcher is out of touch with the people and too steadfast a believer in her convictions, we're told. But the specifics don't matter much, nor does Thatcher's response to them. The scattered production jumps around and never finds any coherency or resonance. I don't know if director Phyllida Lloyd is booking on us knowing the details of Thatcher's tenure (like surviving an assassination attempt) or finding them too dull to relay while serving the interests of a standard feature film length. The movie is easy to watch and sort of invest in, but you're always craving more substance and clarity.

Riddled with dementia in her advanced age, Margaret Thatcher (Meryl Streep) now sees her deceased husband Denis (Jim Broadbent) as a bubbly imaginary friend. As a young woman, Margaret (Alexandra Roach) works in her father's grocery store.

At times, it feels like The Iron Lady exists only as a showcase of Streep's talents. Her Thatcher appears to be a spot-on impersonation. The accent seems flawless and deliberate enough to suggest thorough research into Thatcher's speech patterns.
The mannered performance is more than enough to qualify Streep as an historical interpreter, but the characterization feels lacking, on account of the movie lacking the focus and vision to either dig deep or captivate.

The Iron Lady's shortcomings make it somewhat of a pity for this to have been the third film to win Streep an Oscar, following Kramer vs. Kramer and Sophie's Choice. Though the lack of opportunities for women in her age bracket eases her competition, Streep is consistently excellent in everything she does and is deservedly acknowledged on a nearly annual basis. But how many better films from even just the past few years there have been to bestow some Academy recognition upon: Doubt, Julie & Julia, heck, even Mamma Mia!, West End veteran Lloyd's blockbuster film debut (for which Streep was not nominated), had considerably more entertainment value. Now, it will probably take either a long time or an extraordinary turn to earn the actress more than bridesmaid status once again.

The Iron Lady wasn't a hit in the US, but it did gross over $100 million worldwide. Its $30 M domestic take wasn't far from Clint Eastwood's flashier and equally divisive flop J. Edgar and it also handily defeated another of The Weinstein Company's modern period pictures, the seemingly more commercially appealing My Week with Marilyn.

With enough time passed to get the Oscar win printed on the cover itself, The Iron Lady recently made its home video debut as a single-disc DVD and as a 3-disc Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy from Weinstein's soon-to-be former distributor, Anchor Bay Entertainment. We look at the latter here.

The Iron Lady: DVD + Blu-ray + Digital Copy combo pack cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray & DVD Details

2.35:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English); DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled in English
Release Date: May 1, 2012
Three single-sided discs (BD-25, DVD-9 & DVD-5 DVD-ROM)
Suggested Retail Price: $39.99
Blue Keepcase
Also available on DVD ($29.98 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

The Iron Lady looks terrific on Blu-ray, its 2.35:1 presentation remaining sharp and vibrant throughout. Though you would expect a film driven by nothing but dialogue and understated score, The Iron Lady actually packs some surprising punches in the sound department, its 5.1 DTS-HD master audio mix bringing to life multiple house-rocking explosions and some interesting song selections, from Rodgers & Hammerstein to punk rock.

Director Phyllida Lloyd discusses filming "Battle in the House of Commons." Jim Broadbent discusses Denis Thatcher, "The Man Behind the Woman" he's made up as here.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Extras, all inexplicably in standard definition, begin with "Making The Iron Lady" (12:20), a routine general featurette. It takes us behind the scenes and collects thoughts from Streep, her co-stars, and the crew.

Four shorts narrow in on specific topics, each with the length and feel of a trailer. "Recreating the Young Margaret Thatcher" (2:44) considers Alexandra Roach and Harry Lloyd's performances as the younger versions of the leads. "Denis: The Man Behind the Woman" (2:33) discusses Thatcher's husband and Jim Broadbent's good-humored portrayal of him. "Battle in the House of Commons" (2:28) covers the dressing and shooting of the fiery government procedure scenes. "Costume Design: Pearls and Power Suits" (2:43) gets some thoughts from costume designer Consolata Boyle and director Phyllida Lloyd on the film's clothing as a reflection and extension of its story.

"History Goes to the Cinema" shows us "The Artist" being shot in color and widescreen. The obligatory behind-the-back in public biopic shot features on The Iron Lady's blue-tinted DVD main menu montage.

Finally, "History Goes to the Cinema" (18:04) could easily have been titled "The Weinstein Company's 2011-12 Award Season Slate." This featurette devotes a few minutes to five of the studio's recent theatrical releases: My Week with Marilyn, W./E., Coriolanus, The Iron Lady, and The Artist. USC professors, authors, and an NPR film critic speak on the subjects of each drama,
their remarks complemented by EPK making-of footage and cast/crew sound bites as well as historical clips. Though transparently promotional, this is substantive and I'm a sucker for pieces that consider several different films.

The Blu-ray and DVD open with trailers for The Artist, W./E., My Week with Marilyn, In the Land of Blood and Honey, and Anonymous, followed by a short, simple promo for The Iron Lady's soundtrack. These are the Blu-ray's only HD extras. As usual, Weinstein neglects to include The Iron Lady's theatrical trailer, as appropriate as that would have been here.

On both formats, the menu plays a blue-tinted standard montage to a looped score excerpt. The Blu-ray supports neither bookmarks nor resuming. The latter is especially inexcusable because getting back to the menu from disc loading takes waiting and button pushing. I timed it and it took nearly two full minutes from when my player fired up the disc to when the menu loaded.

The DVD contains all the same extras and trailers as the Blu-ray. Plus it resumes playback if you need to split the film up.

The three discs are packaged in a standard Blu-ray case and accompanied by an insert supplying a digital copy authorization code, redemption instructions, and, on back, a My Week with Marilyn plug.

Margaret Thatcher stands out in more than one way in this photo of British government.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Though Meryl Streep gives a strong performance, The Iron Lady still manages to be a bit weak as a film. I don't know enough about Margaret Thatcher to be able to say whether this dramatization does her justice, but the only way it could is if her life was jumpy, vague, and dull. It's a well-intentioned effort, but as far as major Oscar winners go, it's rather underwhelming.

The Blu-ray combo pack offers a stellar feature presentation and a fairly comprehensive collection of extras. All that and the timing make for a tempting Mother's Day gift. There's probably a good chance your mom will like this movie better than you and I.

Buy The Iron Lady from Amazon.com: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy / DVD / Instant Video

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Related Reviews:
New: W./E. • Clueless • Chinatown • We Bought a Zoo • War Horse • Love Is On the Air
2011 Best Actress Nominees: Albert Nobbs • The Help • My Week with Marilyn
Best Actress Oscar Winners: Black Swan • The Queen • Misery • Annie Hall • One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest • Mary Poppins
Meryl Streep: Julie & Julia • Doubt • Fantastic Mr. Fox
Jim Broadbent: Enchanted April • Inkheart • Valiant • The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe
J. Edgar • The King's Speech • Invictus • The Last Station • Made in Dagenham

The Iron Lady Songs List: The King and I - "Shall We Dance", The King and I - "I Whistle a Happy Tune", Maria Callas with La Scala Milan Orchestra and Chorus - "Casta Diva (from 'Norma')", The Military Band of The Queens Regiment - "Soldiers of the Queen", "Piano Concerto No. 5 in E Flat Major Op. 73", "1812 Festival Overture Op. 49", Notsensibles - "I'm In Love with Margaret Thatcher", Daniel Barenboin - "Well Tempered Clavier Prelude in C Major"

Buy The Iron Lady: Music from the Motion Picture: CD • Amazon.com MP3 Download • iTunes Download

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Reviewed May 4, 2012.



Text copyright 2012 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2011 The Weinstein Company, Yuk Films, Pathι, Film4, UK Film Council, Goldcrest Film Productions LLP,
and 2012 The Weinstein Company Home Entertainment and Anchor Bay Entertainment. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.