Blu-ray Review: ‘The Lady’ Takes Unimaginative Look at Extraordinary Life
CHICAGO – “The Lady” is a textbook example of a missed opportunity. It assembles a talented cast and crew to tell the story of Aung San Suu Kyi, an extraordinary woman who sacrificed everything—including her own freedom—in order to bring democracy to her homeland of Burma. Her life story deserves far more than an episodic biopic, but that’s exactly what it receives here.
Director Luc Besson is an odd choice for this subject matter, considering his filmography favors plot-driven action over character-driven drama. Though this picture runs over two hours, every scene seems determined to finish up before the next commercial break. Nothing is expanded upon or embellished. It is the SparkNotes equivalent of cinema. The best it can do is inspire viewers to seek out the rest of the story for themselves.
Blu-ray Rating: 2.5/5.0
In the role of Suu Kyi, Michelle Yeoh projects her typically ageless beauty and grace, but seems somewhat out of her element. Her English line delivery is occasionally stilted, and there are crucial moments where her performance is conspicuously lacking of the necessary emotion. Consider the scene where Suu Kyi is reunited with her husband, Michael (David Thewlis), and her two sons. They have gone to visit her in Burma as she continues to oppose the corrupt Burmese government while chairing the National League for Democracy. In order to continue fighting the good fight, Suu Kyi must stay in Burma or else she will never be allowed to return. That means the time she spends with her immediate family is confined to a few brief visits and several incoherent phone calls. So when Michael and the kids show up for the first time in three long years, one would expect an outpouring of emotion from Suu Kyi, yet Yeoh plays the scene as if her family had merely been on vacation. This small yet memorable flaw speaks to a larger overarching problem with the project, which is that the filmmakers don’t seem fully invested in the moment-to-moment events that are being staged. And yet there are a hand full of notable exceptions, particularly one lingering close-up that reminds audiences of just how powerful an actress Yeoh can be when her talent is properly utilized. As Suu Kyi reads the letter informing her of Michael’s devastating cancer diagnosis, Yeoh crumbles before the lens, undergoing an immensity of conflicting feelings in a matter of seconds.
The Lady was released on Blu-ray and DVD on October 2nd, 2012.
Photo credit: Cohen Media Group
Thewlis delivers the film’s most touching performance as the husband who believes so fervently in the vitality of his wife’s work that he forbids her to return home, even as death encroaches on the horizon. Yet Besson makes the bizarre choice to have Thewlis also play Michael’s brother, Anthony, a throwaway role that’s little more than a confusing distraction. Anthony doesn’t acquire nearly enough screen time to establish a distinctive presence, thus leading viewers to ask, “Why is Michael waving to himself during the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony?” Indeed, Suu Kyi did win the Nobel Peace Prize while under a house arrest sentence that lasted fifteen years. She was freed during the production of “The Lady,” thus causing the filmmakers to alter their final act. Too bad they didn’t keep on making alterations. As far as reverential biopics go, “The Lady” is a perfectly respectable piece of work. But compelling cinema it is not.
“The Lady” is presented in 1080p High Definition (with a 1.77:1 aspect ratio) and includes a 27-minute behind-the-scenes featurette that details how Besson smuggled cameras into Burma in order to research the visual texture of the breathtaking landscape (the three-month shoot took place in Thailand).