THE IRON LADY

It’s hard to find fault in Meryl Streep’s extraordinary performance as former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady, but it’s a shame the film itself has little of interest to say about either the woman, or the period of British history she shaped. Streep nails the accent, and finds emotional depth in her portrayal of the polarizing leader, but the film never goes beyond a surface look at Thatcher’s controversial political career. 

Buried under layers of make-up and prosthetics, Streep channels the aged Thatcher even as the film focuses on the fictionalized story of the former politician pottering about in her home, having long hallucinatory conversations with her dead husband Dennis (Jim Broadbent). Using the flashback as a narrative device, the movie offers up shallow, brief snapshots of Thatcher’s career – her invasion of the Falkland Islands, her getting elected to Parliament for the first time, and her consultants remolding her image as she runs for Prime Minister. But they’re all hollow glimpses. The film simply isn’t interested in exploring the reasoning behind her politics, her hunger for power, and her unwillingness to compromise. What’s more, the makers offer no real perspective on her growing unpopularity among the people. 

The film works better as a sort of love story, in the snatches of affectionate banter and disagreements we witness between Thatcher and her husband in the earlier years. It’s the love story again that rears its head when you watch the Alzheimer’s-afflicted Thatcher struggling to let go of her husband even years after his passing. 

The Iron Lady has three fine performances at its heart – Jim Broadbent plays Dennis Thatcher with a playful glint, as a sort of cuddly uncle, encouraging his wife when she’s low, occasionally roaring at her when he thinks she deserves it. Also impressive is Alexandra Roach as the younger Margaret, the “grocer’s daughter”, who portrays the character’s political awakening convincingly. But it’s Meryl Streep, playing the older versions of Lady Thatcher, who is absolutely riveting on the screen. She inhabits Thatcher completely, from the voice to the dresses to the steely resolve in her eyes. It’s the only reason to watch this mediocre film. 

I’m going with two out of five for The Iron Lady. It’s a lazy film about one of the most influential leaders of our times. An opportunity has been wasted. 


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1 Comment

  1. Alexa

    March 5, 2012 at 5:24 pm

    Before viewing, “The Iron Lady”, I didn’t really know much about Margaret Thatcher. Other than she was the prime minister of England for 11 years, she was a very controversial figure and still is to this day. So I was really interested to see the film and I decided to visit the WGA screening.

    Now let me begin by saying, Meryl Streep embodies Margaret Thatcher. She doesn’t just look like her, but she talks like her, her facial expressions are spot on. Meryl Streep becomes Margaret Thatcher. I would be shocked if she doesn’t win an Oscar for this performance. The supporting cast is good too, Jim Broadbent gives an excellent performance, everyone is just great.

    However aside from the top notch acting, the movie had a few flaws. The story was uninteresting at times, the flashback scenes were a bit muddled and a little confusing. The movie felt a little too safe, it tried too hard, not to be controversial. Although I don’t entirely blame the film itself for that. Margaret Thatcher was such a decisive person, that whichever side the film picked, it would be criticized by a lot of people. I guess the film ultimately achieved the goal.

    I also liked the movie didn’t dwell too much on the politics, but on the character of Margaret Thatcher. We see the human side of The Iron Lady herself, beyond all the partisan politics and rumors, we get to see a very personal and sad side of her. The subplot focusing on Thacther’s grief over her husband’s death, as the older version battles with hallucinations and an unwillingness to let go of her dear Denis are heartbreaking.

    Overall the movie was really well done, but just shy of greatness. Meryl Streep’s performance and the supporting cast, truly elevates the film into a great biopic. Although I wished a little more time was spent on focusing on her political life, the movie successfully showed a deep and moving side of the prime minister. Which a lot of biopics fail to do. Whatever your opinions might be on Margaret Thatcher, don’t fault the movie because of the opinion. And I highly respect Phyllida LLoyd, Meryl Streep, Abi Morgan and others for trying to portray such a decisive and highly controversial figure.

    Have a lovely day
    Alexa

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