Sunday, November 6, 2011

AFI FEST 2011: Luc Besson's "The Lady"

THE LADY (2011) ***1/2 126mins. D: Luc Besson. Michelle Yeoh, David Thewlis, Jonathan Raggett.

Upon returning to her home country of Burma for a family emergency, Aung San Suu Kyi is thrust into the political spotlight as she spearheads the Burmese democracy movement.

Besson's film chronicles the struggles and sacrifices the Nobel Peace Prize winner faced as the existing militant regime did everything in their power to silence her. All the while she had the unwavering support of her husband and two sons who reside in London.

Yeoh and Thewlis are very good as Suu Kyi and her husband Michael Aris, respectively. Their struggle went on for many years and the screenwriter did her best to encapsulate and condense the key events that would give the story its weight. Besson's direction is fairly straight-forward. You don't see any of the visual flair that we've seen in his other films but considering the subject matter it would be distracting.

My main qualm with the film is how the Burmese government is portrayed so one-dimensionally. It almost plays off as comedic. We see them plot their next move, we then see Suu Kyi somehow ruin it, we then see them reacting wondering what happened. Stallone's "Rambo" really rubbed your face in how sadistic this regime was. What they did show gave you a hint of just how bad they were but it really didn't show you enough. I'm not sure if that was their intention but it felt like it was just some dictatorship that the people wanted to end and not a sadistic, genocidal, militant regime that ruled through fear and intimidation.

Suu and Michael's story is very touching, powerful, sad and is the main reason why this film works. It becomes one of those films that makes you wonder what you would do if the shoe was on the other foot. The film is at its best when it stays with these two heroic characters.

Despite its flaws, it's still pretty good for a biopic and worth a look.

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