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The Iron Lady

You will think a joint effort with the UK Council would show the vital aspects of Margaret Thatcher’s life and career on the cutting room floor. But think twice. I dare say that Meryl Streep is the highlight of the film, if not the saving grace. She disappears so uncannily into former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher in the film that her performance overpowers the movie it’s in. The ingenious opening segment features an anonymous elderly Thatcher buying milk for her husband, Denis (Jim Broadbent). Then it flashes back to Margaret’s early years as the daughter of a conservative shop owner who, when his daughter tells him she has won a place at Oxford, tells her not to let him down. Soon I discern a pattern that sets the tone and basis for the rest of the film for which director Phyllida Lloyd and screenwriter Abi Morgan are to blame: Framed as a sequence of flashbacks Thatcher reflects on in late retirement, The Iron Lady dwells at length on the mental and physical frailties that have attended her later years. In and out of her dreams and abrupt flashbacks, I get the impression that the subject is being both lionized and punished, but without any clear reasons. Meryl Streep does her job well as usual, delivering a bravura performance, but this performance is neither a thoughtful nor provocative portrait of one of the most consequential, influential figures of the 20th century. This is a curious movie, almost standing as its own genre. I don’t recommend the movie, which is no more than a collage of a woman, way ahead of her time, and her ideas and political passion, and later, ambition. Unfortunately the film devotes virtually no time on their substance, let alone any substantive argument regarding the historical roots of Thatcherism, its effect on Britain or its lasting impact on the country’s political culture. The political fallout of her positions is also rushed. Streep shines in her meticulously researched characterization. She really nails Thatcher’s imperious stare and the breathy but insistently inflected speaking style. The movie as a whole is dull.

1 hr 45 mins. PG-13

3 Responses

  1. I haven’t heard great things about this movie, and even the idea of it seems weird to me. Meryl Streep almost looked like a drag version of Thatcher from the promos. I don’t know- I think I’ll pass! thanks for adding your voice to the mix!

  2. I’ve heard so many mixed things about The Iron Lady, I don’t think I’ll be watching it, even though I do love Meryl Streep (and her performance has been mostly praised).

  3. I think in this case I will look for books about Margaret Thatcher and skip the movie, other than a few scenes I can watch on You Tube to see a bit of Streep’s performance.

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