An iron grip on the Os­cars

The Academy Awards are still months away, but all any­one can talk about is Meryl Streep’s mas­ter­ful per­for­mance as Mar­garet Thatcher, writes Maria Lewis

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - MOVIES -

T’S a fa­mil­iar sce­nario – crit­ics abuzz about an in­cred­i­ble Meryl Streep per­for­mance herald­ing the be­gin­ning of Os­car sea­son.

Af­ter all, she does hold the record as the star with the most best ac­tress nom­i­na­tions to her credit – 15 so far.

While she’s been nom­i­nated five times in the past decade, Streep hasn’t won an Os­car since her sec­ond stat­uette in 1983, for So­phie’s Choice. It’s an over­sight blasted in trade jour­nals, but one that’s likely to be rec­ti­fied thanks to Streep’s jaw-drop­ping turn as Mar­garet Thatcher in The Iron Lady.

Streep’s por­trayal of Bri­tain’s only fe­male Prime Min­is­ter in the pe­riod biopic is eer­ily ac­cu­rate and has po­si­tioned her as fron­trun­ner for Fe­bru­ary’s Os­cars.

From her elo­quence to her phys­i­cal­ity, di­rec­tor Phyl­l­ida Lloyd says the per­for­mance all comes down to Streep’s ‘‘ex­tra­or­di­nary com­mand and charisma’’.

‘‘Dur­ing a scene where she is be­ing blis­ter­ingly cruel to her cabi­net min­is­ter, one of the younger ac­tors told me he was sit­ting there shak­ing be­cause he was scared she was go­ing to turn on him,’’ Lloyd says.

‘‘He knew she was in char­ac­ter and it wasn’t even our first take, but Meryl was that pow­er­ful.’’

The Iron Lady re­unites Lloyd and Streep, who starred in Lloyd’s ABBA mu­si­cal Mamma Mia – the high­est-gross­ing film di­rected by a wo­man. An ac­claimed the­atre di­rec­tor, Lloyd, 52, di­rected Mamma Mia for the stage be­fore bring­ing it to life on the big screen in her di­rec­to­rial de­but.

Lloyd says she al­ways con­sid­ered Thatcher’s story to be ‘‘like King Lear for girls’’.

‘‘We show very se­lected in­ci­dents of her po­lit­i­cal life and they’re all trig­gered by what was hap­pen­ing to her in the present,’’ she says.

‘‘It wasn’t about the con­tro­versy of it or whether she was right or wrong. Peo­ple in the UK have been ar­gu­ing about that for 30 years and we’re never go­ing to agree on it.

‘‘I was more in­ter­ested in things like when she ini­ti­ated the Falk­lands War and how it felt to stand in a room mak­ing the de­ci­sions when she was the only wo­man, firstly, and the only one not wear­ing a war medal.’’

Al­bert Nobbs opens on Mon­day (Box­ing Day).

The Iron Lady opens on Box­ing Day.

The Iron Lady Lloyd says she was also in­ter­ested in the story from a ‘‘clas­sist’’ point of view – some­thing she says ‘‘still runs very deep in Bri­tain’’.

As for the Os­car buzz, Lon­don-based Lloyd is cur­rently trav­el­ling from New York to San Fran­cisco on the awards cir­cuit ‘‘roller­coaster’’ as The Iron Lady ce­ments it­self as a crit­i­cal dar­ling. She hopes all eyes will be on Streep again in the lead-up to Os­car nom­i­na­tions.

‘‘Meryl took me on a life-chang­ing ad­ven­ture with this and she’s be­yond de­serv­ing,’’ Lloyd says.

‘‘She seems to pack more into a day than most do in a month and her vi­sion for a project is just so huge, it sets the bar very high for ev­ery­one. She’s very tough on her­self.’’

More Box­ing Day movie re­views in Play Week­end, in Satur­day’s Bul­letin as­ton­ish­ing player in this film is Janet Mcteer as Hu­bert. Al­bert is so­cially awk­ward and odd, par­tic­u­larly in his dogged pur­suit of a dis­in­ter­ested maid (Mia Wasikowska), but Mcteer’s Hu­bert is the op­po­site. She ex­udes warmth – even when Al­bert vis­its, want­ing to see what Hu­bert’s wife and mar­riage is like. Show­ing how ver­sa­tile she is, Wasikowska pulls off an­other great per­for­mance as the su­per­fi­cial maid He­len. He­len doesn’t re­alise Al­bert’s a wo­man, but knows the shy but­ler has feel­ings for her and uses him to buy her ex­pen­sive choco­late, clothes, and whisky for her ac­tual boyfriend, the ho­tel’s handy­man (Aaron John­son). Frus­trat­ingly, Al­bert is com­pletely ig­no­rant to this fact. Al­bert Nobbs is quite a strange and sad tale.

– CARIS BIZZACA

Meryl Streep is at the peak of her pow­ers as former Bri­tish Primem­i­nis­ter Mar­garet Thatcher in

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