Richard Roeper Blog

Another movie awards season, another controversy

Another movie awards season, another couple of controversies involving biopics.

First there was the dustup about whether Colin Clark really did have an affair with the leading sex symbol of her time, as portrayed in “My Week With Marilyn.”

Now come cries of foul over “The Iron Lady,” the upcoming movie about Margaret Thatcher in which the peerless Meryl Streep again demonstrates why she is the actress of her generation. She becomes Thatcher in a performance that goes far beyond mere impersonation.

You get the sense Streep could have been cast in the title role of “J. Edgar” and she could have pulled it off. (Make your own dress-and-pearls joke here.)

While some of Thatcher’s associates have praised the film, more than a few critics have condemned the dramatic conceit that has an elderly, somewhat doddering Thatcher carrying on conversations with her deceased husband. And some who know Thatcher are incensed by the movie.

“The film is indecent,” said Robin Harris, adviser and biographer for Mrs. Thatcher, in an article in the Daily Mail. (SPOILERS AHEAD.) “At no point in her life will Mrs. Thatcher ever be able to go out alone to buy a pint of milk, as she does at the film’s opening….At no point did protesters thump on her car windows…

“[Thatcher’s husband] was neither a joke nor a joker, as the film suggests. T[his] film has been cynically crafted to benefit the cast, producers and backers by ratings-chasing sensationalism.”

“The portrayal of Lady Thatcher as a demented old lady … is simply cruel,” says journalist Simon Heffer in the same article. “It is deeply intrusive — and the ultimate testament to the ‘creative’ world’s acceptance, and exploitation, of her dehumanization. Lady Thatcher in her heyday was a far more subtle character than she appears in the film, whose screenwriter seems to have swallowed every cliche and prejudice about our greatest living stateswoman.”

That’s why they call it drama

Heffer makes some legitimate points. As much as I admired Streep’s performance and the film as a whole, I was surprised at how much time was devoted to scenes involving a forgetful, sometimes delusional Thatcher puttering about her home, trading barbs with the ghost of her husband and struggling to maintain her train of thought when entertaining visitors. Thatcher’s remarkable story and the controversies she faced during her run as PM, while certainly addressed at length in the film, would seem to make for far richer dramatic material.

But in the end, it’s a movie — the visual equivalent of a stylized magazine article about a woman whose life cannot be contained by even an 800-page biography.

And it is fictionalized history. For all awards consideration, “The Iron Lady” will not be up for for Best Documentary, it will be up for Best Drama.

Z sad truth

Stop me if you’ve seen this movie before. Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano tells Joiner Martinez of Lider en Deportes he’s been working like a maniac to get in shape.

“I’ve been preparing like when I was rookie, climbing mountains, running on the beach and exercising hard so I can arrive at spring training in optimal shape,” says Zambrano.

For every hour Big Z spends climbing mountains, he should spend two hours on a therapist’s couch.

Are the Cubs really going to give Zambrano another chance? Wasn’t it just last spring training when Zambrano said he had matured and had changed his ways?

Then the season started, and Zambrano returned to his selfish ways, eventually walking out on his teammates.

I don’t care if Zambrano shows up at spring training in better shape than a triathlete and he starts handing out lollipops to the media and individually apologizing to anyone who was on the team last year. By midseason, he’ll be screaming at umpires, berating teammates, beating up water coolers and blaming everyone but himself for his troubles.

Meet the new Cub, same as the old Cub.

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