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Star - Margaret Thatcher
Genre - Drama
Run Time - minutes
Certificate - PG13
Country - U
Awards - 2 Oscars
Download - Film4 for free
Amazon -£ DVD - (£ Blue ray)
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However much some of you may dislike Margaret Thatcher you would not wish dementia on anyone. At least with cancer you have a chance of a cure. It's a terrible disease that strips away your dignity that old age and illness tend to do and never let's up, cranking up the humiliation month after month until you go out the way you came in - in a nappy and totally unaware of whom you are and where you are. Some would say the loss of her memories on what she did up north was far from cruel on Margaret Thatcher. But I'm pretty sure that most people who would dance on her grave will also know someone with dementia and so should know better. You don't even get to keep the memories of your loved ones in your final years and no one deserves that.
Because of that illness Britain's first woman Prime Minister suffered there is no doubt that 'weakness' was taken into account when this film was put together. I wouldn't say the film was particular kind or in admiration of the Iron lady but it isn't the hatchet job you would have expected if Mrs Thatcher was still alive and compos mentis today. I don't particularly like Thatcher but admired her conviction politics, shouting for what she believed in, but disliked her for eventual and inherited Oxbridge hate of the working-class she came from. The likes of Blair and Cameron are merely reactionaries in suits who only got to where they were by not having any beliefs and doing as their spin doctors told them to get there and so Thatcher one up on them. Mrs T did have a couple of advisers and they feature in the film but only really there to help a shrill woman find an equal playing field in a privileged male world. But what you cant argue with is her courage after the Brighton Bomb.
To quote the women herself: 'It used to be about trying to do something. Now it's about trying to be someone'.
Because Meryl Street showed interest to play the role the production company immediately attached Phyllida Lloyd to the project. She had directed Streep in the bonkers surprise hit Mamma Mia and so secured the deal. Streep has an incredible 17 Oscar nominations to her name and would win her third here for Best Actress in a Leading Role, a mere 30 years hiatus from her last one for Sophie's Choice (1982). She is class act and won her eighth Golden Globe on top of that for The Iron Lady. The film, alas, did not fair so well with the critics.
Meryl Streep ...... as Margaret Thatcher
Alexandra Roach ...... as young Margaret
Jim Broadbent ...... as Denis Thatcher
Harry Lloyd ........ as young Denis
Iain Glen ......... as Alfred Roberts
Olivia Colman ...... as Carol Thatcher
Anthony Head ........ as Geoffrey Howe
Nicholas Farrell ........ as Airey Neave
Richard E. Grant ...... as Michael Heseltine
Susan Brown ........ Margaret Thatcher's live-in carer
Martin Wimbush ......... as Mark Carlisle
Paul Bentley .......... as Douglas Hurd
Robin Kermode ......... as John Major
John Sessions ........ as Edward Heath
Roger Allam ........ as Gordon Reece
David Westhead ........ as Reg Prentice
Michael Pennington .........as Michael Foot
Angus Wright ............. as John Nott
Julian Wadham........as Francis Pym
Nick Dunning ......... as Jim Prior
Pip Torrens ........ as Ian Gilmour
Ronald Reagan (archive footage) as himself
Reginald Green ........ as Ronald Reagan
=== The Plot===
"People don't think anymore, they feel"
We open with an extraordinary scene of an elderly Mrs Thatcher buying a pint of milk and a paper in an Asian newsagent in bustling London, she, oblivious to the proletariat around her, they, oblivious to Britain's once most hated female politician in the queue (Blair, of course, taking the title in spectacular style). She has slipped her protection officers and becoming increasingly unstable as dementia begins to rot her brain after a series of mini strokes.
In her grand apartment in Belgravia we learn more about her deteriorating mental health as her live in career (Susan Brown) also comes to term with Baroness Thatcher's decline. Margaret is hallucinating and thinking her beloved Dennis (played by Jim Broadbent) is still alive, visiting daughter Carol (Olivia Coleman) having to break then news repeatedly that he is dead and she is no longer Prime Minster. Routines like this are common in dementia patients and drive you crazy with frustration.
The family want her to throw all of Dennis clothes out to lessen the fugues and episodes as the madness takes hold, the mechanism for the film to trigger flashbacks to her most important moments, from her parents Grantham fruit & vedge store to the arrival of the young Margaret Roberts to the dreaming spires of Oxbridge and meeting a young Dennis (Harry Lloyd), to her eventual run for parliament in East Finchley in London.
The male chauvinism is exaggerated throughout as she belligerently climbs the ladder of government to her eventual bid for PM as leader, lasting 15 years in the top job, only Airy Neave and Dennis Thatcher given any dimension. We then witness dramatizations of the turbulent 1980s and all the civil unrest that followed as Thatcher tried to destroy the unions, from the miners to the print workers, the bin men to the nurses... the hard workers she once shouted for now her enemies and irritants. It's a little known fact the just 39% of union workers were Labor voters in the 1980s. She was attacking her own voters when she went to war with what she called public waste. We then see her punishment as the party turn on her increasingly patronizing leadership style and the night of the long knives.
The film is Meryl Streep's amazing performance and not much else and no other real reason to see it. She is brilliant and the older prosthetic version of Thatcher uncanny. The middle aged version does look a lot like Meryl Streep though but still an excellent performance. Jim Broadbent is the only other performance of note.
The female directing and writing team showed compassion and empathy the way women do and gave Margaret an easy ride at the last because of her age and illness, which I quietly respect. But that meant the film became more The Madness of King George than The Queen and the biopic becomes as confused as Mrs thatcher and not about her life and the intriguing dynamics of it, almost an onscreen redemption as she faces her demons through those muddled recollections of the woman she once was. It reminds me a lot of the way Oliver Stone backed off 911 and who caused it with his soppy World trade Centre movie. The scene where Thatcher watches herself in her prime on TV in a muddled state and asks her housekeeper who that lady was is incredibly poignant. Dementia is going to be devastating disease in the future with more than 1-in-3 of us likely to suffer some sort of memory related illness and if powerful and active minds like Mrs Thatcher and Terry Pratchett can get it then anyone can. This is not a blue-collar disease born from blue-collar habits.
The narrative is aimed squarely at our American friends with a flood of those flashback recaps of her most infamous moments we Brit's are all too painfully aware of to keep the Yanks interested, like the way they always stick a red London bus, Beefeaters and Tower Bridge in all their movies featuring England. Problem is not a lot of it is true the way history is presented here, in order to give the film its emancipation themes. The film constantly depicts fictitious Thatcher firsts (say that after a few pints!).Like when the film states she was the first female MP in Parliament. Not true, between 19 and up to a maximum of 41 female MPs in parliament during her reign as PM and party leader. She is also shown haranguing Michal Foot in parliament for not supporting the Falklands task force, again not true, in reality Thatcher actually thanking the labor leader for his parties support. The film also portrays that it was Margaret Thatcher who was the last to see Airey Neave alive as he was blown up leaving Westminster. Again not true.
The dramatization aside I think the point of the film is that however famous you are, the indignity of old age and death will level things up. The opening scene to this movie is one of the most powerful I have seen for a very long time in film. I also feel this film will have far more impact on you if you have, or had, a close relative suffering from dementia. It was about that to me. When the body outlives the brain the brain idly lets go as its job is done. All the madness slowly disorientating Thatcher in the movie begins to blur into her reality is quite interesting to witness and explore, a harrowing experience for anyone and not easy to portray on film. In one scene she demands to herself and the empty room that's she will not go mad, as if talking to her cabinet.
Its £10 million budget did an impressive £102 million pounds because of the subject matter and most of that made in the cinema. I can't really recommend it to you other than because of Streep though. If you have a close relative with dementia then best not see this. You don't need any reminders.
I know this is now showing on Film4 and Film4 online where you can see it for a nominal fee and so perhaps your best bet now Blockbusters has gone. I don't think Streep has got that many more big performances in her and so this is certainly a movie for all ages to experience her immense talent and rather good English accent. That opening scene will stay with me for along time.
Margaret Thatcher............. 'Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become your character. And watch your character, for it becomes your destiny. What we think, we become. My father always said that........"
Imdb.com - 6.3/10.0 (55,657votes)
Metacrtic.com - 54% critic's approval
Rottentomatos.com - 51% critic's approval
San Francisco Chronicle -' Streep's performance is so true and so uncannily accurate, so full and so complete in its understanding, that she is fascinating every second she is onscreen'.
Film Comment Magazine -' So, as thrilling as it is to watch Streep imitate Thatcher, The Iron Lady feels like a missed opportunity, not to blame and cast aspersions, but to weigh and assess'.
Examiner .com - 'There's a great story to be told about the life of Margaret Thatcher. Unfortunately, this is not it'.
Efilmcritic.com -'The filmmakers haven't come to any conclusion about Thatcher or, indeed, why they made a movie about her'.
We Got This Covered -'As it stands, The Iron Lady isn't doing any favors for history, feminism or at the very least fans of biopics, but it is a clear victory for Streep'.
Film Dunk -' ..ignores the political and historical context of almost EVERYTHING that happens so that they can make the fabulously reductive statement that LIFE WAS TOUGH FOR GIRLS, BUT SHE WAS A TOUGH GIRL'.
When it comes to movies I only really watch Depp films and biopics. In Warsaw, people are always interested about British character studies and in the last few years there have been three films that went down well with Polish cinema goers. The Queen got the thumbs up although I thought it was only average, then there was The King's Speech and the last one was about Margaret Thatcher in, The Iron Lady. A friend of my husband's lent us a copy of The Iron Lady a few weeks ago; it was one of those freebies that you get in magazines. It did sit on the shelf for a while before we watched it but eventually we got round to looking at it just before the lady passed away.
Here is my review
We start with an elderly Mrs T played by Meryl Streep. She is at home preparing herself for the day while conversing with her late husband (Jim Broadbent). We see her dart to and fro between reminiscences, dementia, and lucidity.
Margaret is eavesdropping - listening to the voices of her staff in the hallway; they are concerned about her growing breaks with reality although concerns about her politics, health, and sexuality seem to be topics that are often spoken about and do not come as a surprise to her. Anyway, she is determined to show all the pessimists and disbelievers wrong.
Flashback time - suddenly we are reminded of her when she was a youngster, listening avidly to her father, a local shopkeeper who was an excellent orator with radical political ideas. From her parents she learns the importance of working hard, how to be smart in business and how to make her female voice stand out and be heard.
This expertise is carried forward into adulthood and her venture into local politics, where she has to wrangle good and hard to be taken seriously as a working class woman. Being very bright and with the assistance of her husband, Denis, she acquires the knack of playing these differences as strengths. Denis is from a good pedigree, go-getting and lots of fun to be with, a perfect balance to Maggie's modest history and rugged determination.
Now, in the present day, Carol (Olivia Colman) arrives to see her mother, she is another one worried about her state of mind. Avoiding Margaret's critical gibes, Carol tries to persuade her mother to go through her dead father's wardrobe and remove the clothes that have been there on the pegs for eight years. Margaret tries to resist carrying out the task; Denis's presence lingers and at times is a comfort to her as well as a worry.
Margaret battles with Denis, with Carol and also with herself but at the same time remembers her steady rise to fame in politics where she opposed the system all the way to her position as Britain's first female prime minster. We see the situations when her iron spirit was an advantage and the times when it damaged her and the homeland dearly.
Firstly, this film doesn't take sides or make any comments about her political career; instead it gives the viewer a complete look, a director's choice that doesn't offend or insult anyone but at the same time clutters the film with too much content.
For me, this didn't work. I was never a supporter of Margaret Thatcher or her politics but I was always fascinated about her character and would have like to have got to know her a little better. I would have liked to have seen an exceptional piece of her life shown in detail and depth that represented her whole life. This didn't happen; I only saw a saturated film of data and in the end all the news footage about wars and riots just became a distortion of detached, unemotional information.
As for Meryl, what can I say? She is an actress that I have seen so many times on screen, I see her every week when I watch Mama Mia with my granddaughter and yet I feel like I don't know her at all. You never get close to the person behind the characters she plays. Perhaps this is a good thing as her cool, professional air is definitely suited to the part of Margaret Thatcher. In The Iron Lady, Meryl's performance is intense as we see her wind her way through a male dominated world and as she ages, fight through the maze that is her muddled mind. She is very good and extremely convincing; at times you think she is Mrs T, with her slow, calculated delivery, precise hair-do and perfect timing.
Jim Broadbent is lovable as her devoted husband, a pleasure to watch as he was when he starred in the film Iris. Although he probably over did the frivolity and fun loving or perhaps, Denis was really like that, I never thought he was and this was new information to me.
Olivia Colman was convincing as Carol and some of my favourite scenes in the film were the ones involving the shaky relationship between mother and daughter; I found these to be captivating.
To sum up I have to say that I really didn't enjoy the film; I found the actual cinematography dark and depressing. The film had many themes, like her rise to power in a man's world, how her strong willpower had an impact on family life, the stormy events that happened during her time in office and of course, the terrible impact of senile dementia, which I found very sad. I couldn't believe the devastation of this illness and how such a strong, determined person and world leader could crumble away. Like I mentioned above, I would like to have seen the film focus on one or two issues and not to pack everything in; it became a superficial portrayal of Margaret Thatcher, a fascinating person whether you liked her or not.
A frail and elderly Margaret Thatcher is suffering from the early stages of dementia; her deceased husband Dennis keeps appearing and talking to her and her daughter and housekeeper are increasingly concerned about her. Events from the present day trigger a number of flashbacks to her previous life from a young girl in her father's grocery shop to a young politician and her rise to prime minister thus telling the story of a fascinating life.
I grew up in the 1980's with parents who were highly politically active in the centre left of the political spectrum so Thatcher was not spoken about in kindly terms. I have memories of the miner's strike and going with my friend whose father was a miner to collect the free lunches that were provided during the school holidays. My parents were part of the new middle class and owned their own home until the economic downturn which saw my dad being made redundant from his engineering job and we suddenly went from living a comfortable life to struggling. I remember the Poll Tax protests and helping to distribute excess EEC cheese and butter to the vulnerable in the community. Thatcher's reign was not kind to the community around me with the effect of the coal mines shutting down still being felt to this day.
The Iron Lady did something I thought was impossible; it made me admire Thatcher's determination to serve her community and do what she believed was right. She disliked career politicians and was a woman driven by the conservative ethos of self-sufficiency and rebuilding Britain from the shambles of the 1970's. I can't say that she came over as a likeable person in the film; she appeared obsessive and often cold.
The problem with trying to chart a life like Thatcher's in the course of a film is that there is so much information to include that you cannot do her life justice. A young Margaret Roberts is seen to be shaped by her early experiences of living through the war and the good old stiff upper lip of carrying on as normal. Attending political events with her father inspired her to work for her community after graduating from Oxford university.
The film then takes a whirlwind look at Thatcher's relationship with her beloved Dennis before going back to the politics. A determined young squeaky voiced Thatcher (played by Alexandra Roach) is seen breaking into a man's world and persuading the tory men that she is fit to run for office eventually rising to be our first female Prime Minister.
The period of her premiership was a turbulent one with regular IRA activity, the miner's strike, the Falklands War and a period of immense social change. None of these events are covered in enough detail, each of them could merit several hours spent on them and it felt immensely dissatisfying having all of these major events glossed over. It did however spark conversation with my daughter about the events of the 1980s but for someone who lived through it, albeit as a child, I wanted a lot more.
Meryl Streep is outstanding as Margaret Thatcher, I was worried that there was no way that she could convincingly play such and iconic figure but my doubts proved to be groundless. She was utterly convincing as Thatcher and in fact it was easy to forget that it was Meryl Streep at all and she pulled of the plummy accent and mannerisms really well. She undergoes a huge transformation to become the elderly Thatcher but also becomes an octogenarian with apparent ease.
Whether you think of Thatcher as a beacon of much needed social change or destroyer of British society there is no denying that she is a fascinating woman and The Iron Lady simply does not do her life or career any justice. The film is too disjointed with a mish mash of the personal and political with many key events either glossed over or omitted entirely.
This 2011 film focuses on the life of our first and only woman prime minister as she battles dementia and has to come to terms with her husbands death.
I went into this film a little apprehensive as I wasn't sure what to expect. I think I had the wrong idea. I was expecting a politically fuelled film about Margaret Thatchers time spent as prime minister and how she got there. That was my mistake for simply not believing anybody who told me 'its more about her life and the onset of dementia rather than her controversial politics'. I was hoping it would stir up some controversy and maybe make me see her in a different light and it achieved one of these expected goals.
I'm not going to pretend to know anything about film making or directing however I wasn't horrified by the directing nor was I applauding it. I thought that film was quite slow and unfortunately, just not very interesting. In my opinion, most of what made this woman interesting was her views and political beliefs however this wasn't covered with half the rigour I was expecting. The acting was, of course, superb (who was expecting anything less from the wonderful Meryl Streep). However, I felt slightly frustrated by Jim Broadbent's performance but something tells me that the script probably squashed much of the talent he could have displayed by showing him as a blithering idiot.
I suppose to talk about how this film changed my views you would have to know what they were. I do not agree with about 99% of Margaret Thatchers politics and was interested to see how they portrayed her. However, through most of this film I actually viewed her as quite a lonely lady who was battling dementia and found this quite harrowing and sad. When you strip away all of the politics I suppose that's what's left now.
To conclude I think this is a film which is worth watching for anybody who is interested in history or politics or has a strong opinion on Margaret Thatcher but if your looking for a controversial film to stir things up, this is definitely not for you.
Thank you for reading, if you found this review helpful please say so,
The Iron Lady is a 2011 film starring Meryl Streep playing Margaret Thatcher the ex-British Prime Minister; the film won BAFTA's and Oscars for Streep.
For those who live under a stone
Margaret Thatcher was British Prime Minister from 1979 to 1990, she was the first and so far only female Prime Minister and it's fair to say been a controversial figure, for some a saviour for getting Britain out of the depths of debt to others who hated her for her treatment of the traditional industries such as coal, steel and shipbuilding principally in the North of England. She was overbearing, arrogant and tended to bully her weaker colleagues, she was lucky in that the Labour party at the time of her Premiership was undergoing huge internal schisms and only became a major threat towards the end of the 1980's. After being ousted by her senior cabinet members she became a Peer and her reputation has waxed between hatred and a more considered viewpoint but it depends who you talk too. The Iron Lady tag of the film came from her unwavering support of President Reagan and was given to her by the Soviets cowed by her forceful personality.
The Iron Lady
The Iron Lady is a film which begins with an aged Maggie Thatcher suffering from senility and having visions of her dead husband Dennis (Jim Broadbent), she is a virtual prisoner in her flat but the film begins with her going out to buy milk from the local corner shop. We are then constantly moved between the modern and an aged and doddering Maggie, through her childhood in Grantham, her first political experiences, her marriage to Dennis, becoming an MP for Finchley before becoming a member of Ted Heath's cabinet. She became Education minister and was infamous for removing the milk allowance to children, hence the first scene of her buying milk. She ousts Heath and eventually becomes Prime Minister.
Meryl Streep plays the aging and middle aged Thatcher and portrays a strong powerful woman who believes implicitly on her own beliefs and wants to bring about a stronger better Britain in her own mind. She moves seamlessly between portraying the older almost senile Thatcher to the women in the centre of the storm so well that for the scenes from the 70's and 80's it's easy to forget that we are watching an actress playing Thatcher rather than Thatcher herself.
But what about the film itself, this is a biopic of Thatcher, her life in profile which is wrapped around the memories of an old woman with the occasional use of her imagined husband or the occasional prop to go through the central moments of her life. We have the winning of her seat, her children, her first ministerial experiences, the violence and hatred of the early 80's before redemption in her own mind with the Falklands and the rampant market economy of the late 80's. All very worthy and enjoyable, and the film makers take great care about period detail, so we have the Thatcher hair, suits, handbags etc. We have a film which has an amazing performance from Streep and Broadbent and never tries to commentate on the issues which divided Britain at the time and has created such a divisive personality as we have with Margaret Thatcher.
This is a film which sometimes feels forced or without any real rationale behind it, one of the problems is the use of the ghost of Dennis Thatcher which is obvious for when Maggie is in her extreme old age but trickier when we see an aged but not that old Maggie and where Jim Broadbent plays a still alive Dennis but in the same clothes as the imaginary one.
Overall, I enjoyed the film it would be fair to say that Maggie was and still is a dirty word in my Grimsby Dock worker father but she gets praised by my potato merchant Grandfather, in case you're wondering they don't talk about politics much. So any film about the woman will touch on personal feelings about the real Maggie, still alive still divisive and much loathed and loved in the British press but the film itself has a brilliant performance from Meryl Streep and whilst the dementia scenes are a bit unlikely it does show the decline and fall of the Iron Lady. The film ends with Maggie washing a cup and saucer something she states when she first meets Dennis that she doesn't want to die washing up a cup and saucer.
There has been discussion as to whether people would react well to a biopic of Margaret Thatcher or not. After all, it is said that she nearly brought Britain to civil war in the 80s when her policies threatened the livelihood of many. Two decades after her resignation from power, and Thatcher is still very much alive, but not quite kicking as apparent ill health and dementia set in. Here, her story is told through provocative flashbacks to her years in power as her ailing health see's her almost housebound in her eighties.
Margaret Thatcher was born in 1925, the daughter of a grocer, in Lincolnshire. She was raised a strict methodist, and won approval as the only female candidate in Dartford in the early 50s. During this time, she married her husband Denis, who she stayed married to until his death, and who payed for her studies to become a barrister, which she achieved a couple of years after losing out in the local elections. Throughout the 1960's, after giving birth to her children, she supported lower tax issues and the decriminilisation of homosexuality.
During the 70's, Thatcher became the Secretary of State for Education and Science, where she garnered attention for her strict rulings on public spending, and was responsible for the cutting of free milk for school children over the age of 7. This led to confrontation with the media and the labour party, who felt that Thatcher's policies would affect less fortunate children who relied on school provisions for nutrition and well-being.
Thatcher became the first female prime minister of Britain in 1979, where she reigned for eleven years. The many contentious issues she raised included immigration, poll tax, the reduction of trade union and the power they held over the government, but one of the more famous historical events during her reign was the end of the Falklands War. Thatcher finally resigned in 1990, handing her reign over to John Major, and returned to the back benches for 2 years.
This film glosses over many of the above events, presenting a woman whose ideals were, at least, always with the best intentions at heart. Whether this is the case or not, there is no disputing the fact that Phyllida Lloyd's biopic certainly doesn't present the facts in full, and that her picture is designed to turn Thatcher in to a sympathetic figure. She largely achieves that by focusing on a lonely elderly woman who misses her husband so much that she conjures up conversations with him years after his death. The politics of one of Britain's most reviled women is merely a side issue.
The performances themselves have already been commented on, and so much so that it feels almost pointless mentioning that Meryl Streep's turn as Thatcher is one of the most powerful performances in recent cinema. I almost want to tell you that its an over the top patchy performance that is closer to that classic Spitting Image caricature than a mesmerising performance that almost puts you right there at the heart of Thatcher's reign. I cant do that, because it really is brilliant. Only Streep's own eyes alert you to the fact that she is the woman behind Thatcher.
The rest of the cast do adequate jobs, but inthe wake of Streep's powerhouse performance, its just a shame that they are worked into the shadows. In fact, the only other character or actor to be given any kind of screen time, is Jim Broadbent, who is an actor who also rarely does a bad job. Although it is somewhat amusing to see him, a man most famous for playing the type of character's that might have hated Thatcher during her reign, hamming it up as her long dead and slightly ghoulish husband.
All in all, Lloyd does a fine job with the performances, but its the hamfisted way in which the events unfold that leave a bad taste. I'm all for presenting two sides to every story, but Lloyd doesn't even manage to give us half of what we knew Thatcher was. Instead, she is presented as a sympathetic lead to a country that appears to be notoriously highly-strung and reactionary. The historical facts present a very different picture. That's not to say Thatcher wasn't without her merits though. As she points out in this film "The medicine may not be what the country wants, but it is what it needs". The film had the potential to be something more powerful, instead of this patchy and somewhat fictional soap opera.
A misleading but excellently acted biopic of one of the world's most notorious women.
Phyllida Lloyd is a special director. She may even be a unique, one-of-a-kind director. But I mean this as no compliment. With her skills behind the camera, she has managed the almost impossible She made a Meryl Streep movie almost unwatchable. She got away with her clumsy direction in the light-hearted, breezy "Mamma Mia," in which many of the film's downfalls were somewhat patched up by some upbeat ABBA songs. With "The Iron Lady," Lloyd doesn't have the Swedish pop group to fall back on, as she is left alone with the legendary actress in a narrative that really should have gripped the audience. Margaret Thatcher, no matter what your opinion may be, was the first female Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, a milestone further boosted by the fact that she served a whopping ten and a half years before resigning. Her conservative politics are no doubt controversial, but the woman's life is a fascinating one that could have served well as a base of a film's screenplay.
Opening with a hallucinatory Thatcher (Streep), in which she believes her dead husband Dennis (Jim Broadbent) is still alive, the film is already starting to show that it has its focus in all the wrong places. It is heart-breaking for the audience to learn that she has lost someone dear to her heart, and the devastating consequences this has had on her life, but it's certainly not something we want to come back to every time Lloyd sees fit. Perhaps trying to squeeze as much tear out of us as possible, Lloyd is strangely eager to show the current Thatcher, instead of closely examining the rise of a great leader, and her eventual decline.
Sure, we have the flashbacks. We even see a younger version of Margaret played by the perky and determined Alexandra Roach. It's unclear why Lloyd even bothered with this segment, for this part serves no purpose to the later parts of the film. It moves too quickly, and barely glances over her family. Her distant mother and her ambitious, politically-driven father, are scarcely shown, and appear to have had very little influence on her. Then we hear the happy news that she got accepted into Oxford. We skip more years now, to when Margaret runs for a seat in the Parliament. So what happened in Oxford? Apparently, not a lot. Through her first election, she meets Dennis, a charming young middle-class businessman who wants to marry her. They bond over "The King and I." As he proposes, she declares that she won't "die washing teacups." This kind of ambition, put so transparently and a touch offensively (so what, dedicated housewives have nothing to show for themselves and should therefore be ashamed?), is why he wants to be her husband.
Fine then, this chooses to focus more on the romance between Margaret and Dennis, given the way the dead Dennis keeps popping up to trouble the poor, frail Margaret as she is trying to have a nice cup of tea. Not quite; because when politics kicks in, Dennis is quite literally forgotten in an instant and is shown in those rare shots where he's surrounded by fellow conservatives, applauding as Margaret delivers a winning speech. The bond between these two is never explored any further than their mutual love for "The King and I" (we even see Lady Thatcher rummaging through her DVD collection to find the Yul Brynner-Deborah Kerr classic), and it becomes increasingly frustrating as we know so very little about the couple. Her children also make an appearance - and although the daughter (the excellent Olivia Colman of "Peep Show") shows up to add more nostalgia and tear-jerking drama, the son's name is barely even called.
So has Lloyd suddenly decided, half way through the film no less, that she does in fact want to explore the politics? Again, not quite. Deciding to show all of the leader's accomplishments in tacky scenes adding far too much past real-life footage, whereas Streep is required to do no more than a) wave at her supporters after something positive or b) look scared in her car as angry demonstrators try to climb her vehicle. The closest the film gets to any dramatisation is when the Falklands War hits as this time Meryl is required to stand in a war room, having to make the difficult decision of whether to sink an Argentinian ship or not. But everything else, the closing of the coal mines, various riots, resolution of the Cold War, the IRA prisoners' hunger strike etc, are covered poorly - put it this way, if you want to know more about the miners, it would be best to re-watch "Billy Elliot." And for those interested in the Irish hunger strike, watch Steve McQueen's fantastic "Hunger."
But one thing is for certain: Streep is, as usual, utterly brilliant. No words can begin to describe just how absurdly talented this actress is. This isn't just about her accent or the voice. Perfect as those two qualities are, Streep goes a step further in showing us the more private, closed-off and ailing Thatcher as well as the characteristics of a stern Prime Minister. She is ruthless and stubborn as she addresses her cabinet, often alienating even those close to her, and yet her vulnerable sides show through, mostly when it becomes apparent that no having her husband around in later life is unbearable to even the Iron Lady: all this, without ever having an ounce of over-acting. Her performance is nothing short of being a master-class in acting for anyone who is interested, as well as being one of the, if not the best performance she has given in her already astonishing career. Opposite her, Broadbent is also spot-on, providing a subdued air of warmth, exactly the kind of support Streep needs to truly shine.
Watching "The Iron Lady" made me think of "W.E." Madonna's (never a good sign in the film industry) second directorial debut in which similar self-indulgent, over-stylised, unfocused plot ruins what could have been an intriguing tale to tell on screen. Lloyd's latest is irritatingly disjointed and manages to suck all the excitement and drama from this extraordinary woman's life. One wonders what would have happened to this project if Streep had declined the role. As she happens to be the best and only reason to even consider watching this, it would be reasonable to assume that without this brilliant miracle of a human being, this would have been a worthless waste of time.