Sometimes, producers make movies just for the accolades.
Here’s the formula. Grab a major talent and throw something together. Wait to release it until the end of the year. Do the release with lots of hype. The buzz sells everyone on the idea that the picture is the next best thing.
When you land a Meryl Streep to play a role in whatever you toss together, then the buzz gets an extra kick. Critics in Los Angeles and New York screen it first. They rave about her acting, and the extra kick gets an extra kick.
Then, the nominations start.
The film in question is The Iron Lady. It’s a biopic about famed British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Streep’s name as best actress sits atop all of the industry nominations sheets. She has already won a Golden Globe and the best actress award for the New York Film Critics Circle Awards.
No doubt Oscar will come calling next.
The Iron Lady — the movie — is a disaster. Phyllida Lloyd (Mamma Mia!) directs from a screenplay by Abi Morgan (Shame). The story is all over the place. It starts with Thatcher battling dementia, or maybe it was Alzheimer's. Her malady is never defined.
Thatcher is haunted by the ghost of her late husband Denis. She talks to him and responds to him. Her aides and those who care for her doubt her sanity.
The story flashes from dementia Thatcher to her youth, back to the addled lady, on to her marriage and political career. Then back to the confused Thatcher. You learn politics dominated her life, and the husband and kids suffered as a result of that passion.
The historical trip through her years as prime minister only makes a couple of stops. First stop is Maggie’s obsession as a conservative and her refusal to let the government spend money it doesn’t have. It ties her to U.S. ally Ronald Reagan but skips the details.
The longest stop is the Falkland Islands crisis in which Britain went to war with Argentina over islands off the South American nation’s coast.
Streep as a younger Thatcher is not that interesting. Decked in old-lady clothes, struggling with her mind and memories, and bantering back and forth with the equally excellent Jim Broadbent who plays the late husband Denis, Streep is as good as Streep gets.
But she’s Meryl Streep and you expect this kind of excellence. The lady is a fabulous actress. The best. It’s why she won the Golden Globe and why she gets nominated for just about everything she does. If seeing Streep act is motivation alone, then don’t miss The Iron Lady.
However, if you’re going to see a terrific docu-drama, then you’re going to be very, very disappointed. You learn absolutely nothing about Margaret Thatcher except that she was passionate about politics, a conservative, a woman wielding power in a man’s world and that her relationship with her family suffered because of that passion.
Nothing else. This is total cookie cutter — and half-baked at that.
Mr. Movie rating: 3 stars
Rated PG-13 for mature themes. It opens Friday, Jan. 20 at the Carmike 12.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.