The Iron Lady

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Watching this movie was an interesting experience for me. When I watch a movie for the first time, I usually prefer to do it alone, because some people like to talk during movies (like pretty much my entire family). And then I ask them to stop and then of course they just do it more because it annoys me. I swear, I could be watching  the most intense, important scene of a movie, and suddenly my Dad would say “Who is that actress?…Is she still alive?…Why is Bruce Willis holding a Samurai sword?…I think John Travolta secretly wants to be a woman…” I love my father, but seriously, I don’t watch movies to have conversation. But of course a couple of days ago I have to be nice, and when we didn’t have anything to do I just had to mention that I had a copy of The Iron Lady. And of course, the movie had been playing not ten minutes before “Is that Glen Close?” Happy Father’s Day Dad :).

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Yet despite the unwanted disruptions, I really enjoyed this movie. The Iron Lady is a British film released in 2011 and directed by Phyllida Lloyd about the life of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The movie begins with Margaret Thatcher (Meryl Streep) as an old woman suffering from dementia. As you continually watch her struggling with old age and dealing with her hallucinations of her dead husband Denis (Jim Broadbent),Thatcher has flashbacks to when she was a young woman (Alexandra Roach) trying to become a politician in a world of men, and eventually the wife and mother who becomes the first female Prime Minister in a western country.

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There are so many great things about this movie. Although I might be biased as someone who majored in English and history, making me always up for a historical film. I’d say one of the best things about this movie is the artful way in which it was put together. This includes the inspired choice to not have a consecutive storyline but use flashbacks. This choice really gave more power to the tragedy of Thatcher’s aging as she reviewd her life.

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The Iron Lady also has one of the best casts I have ever seen. Meryl Streep was amazing no doubt. Some critics were quoted saying something along the lines of she had more iron than the real Margaret Thatcher did. She was completely transformed. But I also loved seeing Anthony Head, the actor who played Giles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and is currently playing King Uther in the show Merlin, pop up in a huge movie like this. And Jim Broadbent who played Margaret Thatcher’s husband Denis, did an astounding job, especially the scenes in which he was Margaret’s hallucinations.

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However, best of all, this movie had probably one of the most subtle yet poignant endings in film history. It ends with the elderly Margaret Thatcher washing a tea cup. Which of course sounds ridiculous by itself, but becomes increasingly powerful when I tell you that early in the movie, when Denis proposes to her, she tells him “I will not die washing a tea cup.” But what’s so beautiful about the ending is that Thatcher cleans the cup, puts it on a shelf, and goes on about her day. She didn’t die washing it, she continues to live. Despite her dwindling mind, she will continue to remain a strong female figure in history for all time. Sorry, did the English major in me just wax too strong?

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I think I only have one complaint about this movie. I felt it got a little repetitive, which I know is inevitable when it is constantly going back in time. However, I got tired of all the images of angry Englishmen tapping on her car window. After seeing it five times, I wonder, was the writer of this film not able to come up with another way to display the country’s outrage?

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I would describe this movie as beautifully tragic. It is tragic in the way that Thathcer is fighting so hard to retain her sanity, in the way that she desperately misses her husband, and in the way that as Prime Minister, she finally understands that even she can go too far. I give the Iron Lady a 9. And after seeing it I should probably add Meryl Streep to my list about my favorite actresses: https://hereslookinatyousquid.wordpress.com/2012/06/06/my-favorite-top-ten-actresses-13-2/.

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An Education: Don’t Take the Banana, Jenny, Don’t Take the Banana

For my first movie critique, I thought I would assess the quality of a movie I watched just a few days ago, An Education. This British indie film was released in 2009 and received a significant amount of critical acclaim despite accusations of anti-Semitism (I guess director Lone Scherfig didn’t know that making a Jewish character a cradle-robbing conman is just not in vogue).

The film is set in a convincing 1960’s London (actually I don’t have much authority on that considering I’ve never been to London and I’m not, well, in my 50’s) where Jenny, a clever young woman, played to perfection by Carey Mulligan, is in her last year of primary school and dreams of going to Oxford when she falls head over heels for David (Peter Sarsgaard), a man twice her age. In her infatuation, Jenny drops out of school and abandons her dreams of Oxford to marry David, only to discover that he is already married (who didn’t see that coming, really?). Jenny has to pick up the pieces of her shattered life to get back on track and make it to Oxford.

Over all, I really enjoyed this movie. It is witty and sexy. My favorite part is when David makes Jenny actually have to say “I don’t want to lose my virginity to a fruit!” (Just to alleviate confusion, she means fruit in the literal sense). I don’t think such a combination of words has ever been uttered in the English language before. This movie is also appealing because of its feminist implications. It does more than just reaffirm the common female notion that men suck (come on, you know you do). An Education asserts a message of independence.

However, the great thing about this film is that it even transcends a feminist interpretation. Both the title and Jenny’s conflict expresses a very important question: what is the most important kind of education? Is it formal or life experience? The movie suggests that a person doesn’t have to choose between the two, and choosing actually is very limiting, as it was limiting to Jenny. She wasn’t happy just working hard at school, and of course dropping out of school doesn’t work out for her too much. It’s not until the end of the movie, when she’s in Oxford and meets a man (her age, thank God) who takes her to Paris that she finds true fulfillment.

Despite the movie’s great messages, it does have some flaws. I have two specific ones in mind. The first being that at the end of the movie, Carey Mulligan suddenly does a random voice over to explain the resolution of the film, a technique that annoys me to no end. If there is going to be a voice over in a movie, it better be in the beginning, or at least somewhere else. The second is not so nit-picky. When Jenny discovers that David is married and that she has nothing, she goes to her previous teacher and asks for help. The next scene, she is opening her acceptance letter from Oxford. Excuse me, but we are missing a key bit of information there. How exactly was Jenny able to get in to Oxford after she left school? I want to know what that teacher did. The only thing I can guess is that she slept with the dean or something, but considering this movie has a feminist message, I hope that’s not what happened. For me, that is an inexcusable hole of information.

Considering those are the only flaws I could see, I would conclude that for the most part this is indeed a good movie. I give it 7 out of 10.