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The Iron Lady

Released 2011. Director: Phyllida Lloyd

RONALD REAGAN SAID OF MARGARET THATCHER: "HER MANY ACHIEVEMENTS WILL BE APPRECIATED MORE AS TIME GOES ON." Not sure if this movie helps in any way.

The Iron Lady tells the life story of Margaret Thatcher. I say life story because the movie tries to cover a lot of years. We see a young Margaret, a grocer’s daughter, an idealistic Oxford graduate determined to make a difference. We see her romance with Denis Thatcher, her foray into national politics and her battle to be taken seriously as a leader in a male-dominated arena. We see her struggling with dementia in her 80s. What we don't see is the complex person loved by many and loathed by even more.

Directed by Phyllida Lloyd and written by Abi Morgan, this biography picture is patchy and uneven, the script written in broad strokes, in parts lacking subtlety. As Britain's first female Prime Minister who ruled for 11 years, some of those times over very rough patches, Thatcher's policies were divisive; her methods not always supported.

The Iron Lady shows us riots, strikes, bombings, an angry mob with placards banging on the windows of Thatcher's limousine. But it does little to address the controversry of her policies. Deregulation, privatisation, free market and the triumph of capitalism are some of Thatcher's legacies. The movie’s weakness is its inability to handle such a rich character in a two-hour life story, which is presented like a highlight package of a news report. What made Margaret Thatcher regard herself as saviour of Great Britain? Regardless of your opinion on the woman, The Iron Lady is not going to change it.

The strength of the movie is the performance of Meryl Streep. From the early days of Thatcher's political career looking like a housewife dressed up for the boardroom to becoming a stern, steely powerbroker of implacable will, Streep’s portrayal is perfectly-tuned and mesmerizing at every step. She mines gold out of a mediocre drama.

What Streep has done is humanising a polarising historical figure. One may not get a better understanding of Thatcher the Prime Minister, but one feels for the person whose job is the Prime Minister. Scenes of Thatcher in her old age, which bracket the movie and form the basis for her flashback scenes, is Streep giving us the heart of the movie. Thatcher talks to her imaginary husband, who has long since passed on; Thatcher fretting about the price of a pint of milk; Thatcher at home with her daughter; Thatcher showing signs of dementia – these moments let us see how the most powerful woman in the western world at one time is now at the mercy of age.

Put aside any preconceived notion you have of Thatcher the politician, you’ll see The Iron Lady is a picture of contrast between power and decline.

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