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
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