Tuesday 21 November 2017

Streep's great impression ... but poor tale of Iron maiden

THE IRON LADY Drama. Starring Meryl Streep, Jim Broadbent, Olivia Colman, Alexandra Roach, Nicholas Farrell, Anthony Head, Richard E Grant. Directed by Phyllida Lloyd. Cert 12A

As the most dominant and divisive political figure in Britain throughout the 1980s and early '90s the story of Margaret Thatcher is one that should be told, but The Iron Lady is definitely not the way to go about it.

Mamma Mia! director Phyllida Lloyd re-teams with Meryl Streep for a creaky and at times uncomfortable trawl through Thatcher's life. The decision by screenwriter Abi Morgan to flash from the past to a present-day Thatcher slipping into dementia, conversing with her late husband Denis (Jim Broadbent) and generally being dismissive of her daughter Carol (Olivia Colman) doesn't bring any dramatic benefit to the story.

Meryl Streep and her make-up people have done a fine job in capturing the look and manner of Britain's only female prime minister, but in many ways it's Alexandra Roach as the young Margaret who gets to the core of what made her.

Historically and politically the film is all over the place and Lloyd's filming style gives it the look of a glorified TV movie, albeit with a spot-on impersonation by Meryl Streep.

Whatever you think of Thatcher, her legacy deserved better than The Iron Lady. HHIII

THE ARTIST Silent/Comedy/Drama. Starring Jean Dujardin, Berenice Bejo, James Cromwell, John Goodman, Uggy, Penelope Ann Miller, Malcolm McDowell. Directed by Michel Hazanavicius. Cert General

On the surface this mainly French production looks an unlikely contender for success. It's mostly silent and is in black and white. And yet, The Artist is more than a stylistic exercise and offers a joyous movie experience which lifts the spirits and gladdens the heart.

The story begins with silent screen idol George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) attending the premiere of his new film, accepting his bows and being photographed outside the theatre with an aspiring starlet. She's Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo) who quickly makes her way up the ladder and falls for Valentin, just as his marriage falls apart and the golden age of the silents gives way to the talkies.

It's a classic storyline of parallel rise and decline, common from the 1930s but Hazanavicius and his team make it seem fresh and vibrant.

It helps that Dujardin has the demeanour and look of a true matinee idol and Bejo would have glowed in the 1920s and '30s, but there's real skill in the way the director has established his monochrome set-pieces, not least a sequence when they meet on an art-deco staircase as he's on his way down from a meeting with a studio boss (John Goodman) while she's on the way up.

Contemporary cinemagoers shouldn't be put off by the fact that there's no dialogue and there's a movie-stealing performance by Palme Dog winner Uggie, the fading star's faithful Jack Russell. A guy! A girl! A dog! What's not to love? HHHHH

DREAMS OF A LIFE Drama/documentary. Starring Zawe Ashton, Alix Luka-Cain. Directed by Carol Morley. Cert Club

Carol Morley's thought-provoking drama-documentary looks at the story of Joyce Vincent, a young woman discovered in her London flat in 2006, surrounded by wrapped Christmas presents, having lain dead for three years. HHHII

GOON Sports comedy. Starring Seann William Scott, Jay Baruchel, Alison Pill, Liev Schreiber. Directed by Michael Dowse. Cert 16

A vulgar, painfully unfunny sports comedy in which a thuggish, dim-witted bouncer (Seann William Scott) discovers his true calling by beating people up in minor league ice hockey. This aims for the wit of Slapshot but fails. HIIII

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