Dignified to the point of paralysis, "The Lady" is French action-meister Luc Besson's biopic/agitprop portrait of Aung San Suu Kyi (Michelle Yeoh). She's the Nobel Peace Prize winner held under house arrest for 15 of the past 21 years. Her election to parliament was nullified by the brutal Burmese junta, and she is a reigning symbol of resistance not only for her country (also called Myanmar) but oppressed peoples everywhere. Still, as delivered by Besson, "The Lady" is a two-hour trip into earnestness, from which audiences will want a little liberation of their own.
Beginning with her childhood and the assassination of her father, Gen. Aung San (considered the father of modern Burma for having freed the nation from British rule), the story follows Suu Kyi to 1988 Britain, where she lives a rather idyllic upper-middle-class life with husband Michael Aris (David Thewlis) and their two sons, until she's called back to Burma to care for her sick mother.
There, she experiences firsthand the junta's brutality and agrees to lead the National League for Democracy, which wins landslide victories in parliamentary elections. Suu Kyi likely would have ascended to become the country's prime minister. But rather than martyring her, the dictatorial Gen. Ne Win (Htun Lin) has her placed under house arrest, where she remains for much of the movie.
Despite its length, "The Lady" never gets beyond a surface examination of Suu Kyi and her commitment to Burma, nor does it illuminate the issues in any meaningful way, or the steely resolve Suu Kyi must harbor behind her elegant exterior (something Yeoh inhabits very well). Basically, "The Lady" treats as fragile a woman who is anything but.
PLAYING AT Cinema Arts Centre, Huntington
BOTTOM LINE Stultified treatment of a noble subject, whom Yeoh inhabits with grace, if not depth.