The Iron Lady (2011)
Margaret Thatcher's interview on Larry King (1995)
The Iron Lady
Director: Phyllida Lloyd
Writer: Abi Morgan
Cast: Meryl Streep, Jim Broadbent, Richard E. Grant, Susan Brown, Alice da Cunha, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, Iain Glen, Alexandra Roach, Victoria Bewick, Emma Dewhurst, Olivia Colman, Harry Lloyd, Sylvestra Le Touzel, Michael Culkin, Stephanie Jacob, Robert Portal
Synopsis: Tells the story of a woman who smashed through the barriers of gender and class to be heard in a male-dominated world. The story concerns power and the price that is paid for power, and is a surprising and insightful portrait of an extraordinary and complex woman.
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for some violent images and brief nudity
A Noble who stood up for what she believed in, or perhaps a mad ultra conservative consumed with power...you decide
When I first saw this movie, I didn't know what to think of it. In fact, I still don't to this day. For the first time in my life, I'm at a total loss for words during a review. Usually if the movie is good, I always know right away about what I'd like to say about it. If the movie stinks, I can easily come up with various humorous ways to rip it to shreds with my writing skills. But for a movie like "The Iron Lady?" What can I really say about it that hasn't been said before?
The film is said to be based on the real life controversial figure, Margaret Thatcher (Meryl Streep), who starts off as a mere Grocer's daughter, but she ends up not only becoming Britain's first female Prime Minister, but the only one to win three consecutive terms in the 20th Century. To make matters more interesting, she went on to become Britain's longest continuously serving prime minister since 1827. Indeed, her election into office was a historic feat if anything, but she was quite the controversial figure during her political career, as Prime Minister.
In some scenes, the movie displays a young Margaret Thatcher (Alexandra Roach) as an idealistic young girl that yearns to break into politics, and defy a male dominated Parliament system that seems to under value women. However, in other parts of the movie, it shifts forward decades later to where she's already in Parliament, as she makes her move to establish herself as Britain's first female Prime Minister. Once she's elected, she immediately establishes an essence of authority, to where she would not allow anyone to stand in her way of achieving her objectives. It's during those particular scenes, where we see her as Prime Minister, that the movie shows how utterly ruthless she can be, and how she would stop at nothing to get her way; in spite of her colleague's protests. Of course, this also serves as a plot device later to show how the party's allegiance to her begins to dwindle, as she constantly undermines her fellow Parliament members.
Fast forward even further in time, we see Margaret Thatcher (Meryl Streep again with make up to look older), as a retired Parliament member, who seems to be going senile in her old age. Not only does she constantly become haunted by the images of her deceased husband through vivid hallucinations, but he constantly torments her by reminding her how much she neglected her own family for the sake of her political career. Throughout the film, it constantly shifts between these three periods in Margaret's life, to show the audience just how deeply complex Margaret Thatcher was in her life.
Although some critics have chastised this movie for not defining some sort of strong opinion on the controversial political figure, but I think I can understand where this movie was trying to go though. In some ways, this movie seems to be trying to do what Oliver Stone did with George W. Bush with his controversial film, "W." For those of you who haven't seen the movie, I'll briefly explain. Unlike most political biopics that focus on one aspect of the person in question, "W" took sort of a different stance. Instead of displaying him as some strong misunderstood political figure, or some moronic jackass that ruined the country during his term, it actually did a little bit of both.
Meaning, it showed both the good and bad sides of George W. Bush, to where Oliver Stone wasn't trying to persuade the viewer one way or the other to think a particular way about the former President, but rather telling the viewers what they already knew about him going into the movie; while leaving it up to the viewers themselves to decide how to feel about George W. Bush. In some cases, it changed quite a few people into believing that maybe George W. Bush wasn't such a bad guy after all. While in other cases, it only confirmed exactly how they felt about him all along; whether it be good or bad.
In a strange way, I get the impression that Phyllida Lloyd and Abi Morgan were trying to accomplish the same exact thing with "The Iron Lady", to where they didn't want to portray Margaret Thatcher in a negative or positive light per say, but rather they were trying to show both the good and bad sides of her; while leaving it up to the viewers to decide how to feel afterwards. Granted, it's a brilliant move when it's pulled off well, as it certainly worked for "W." However, where that film succeeded, and "The Iron Lady" failed is that most of the supporting characters were a bit of an after thought in this movie. Unlike "The Iron Lady", the supporting characters for "W" were written rather well, and whenever George W. Bush f***ed up, it not only showed the consequences of his actions, but it also showed how it affected those around him as well. Not only did it work to help create a strong sense of irony in the movie, but it also laid out the foundation to where even if you didn't change your mind about Bush, you'd end up at least feeling something for the supporting characters.
Not saying you don't feel the same effect in this movie, but it never goes quite into as much detail as "W" did. Outside Margaret's husband, we rarely see the rest of her family in this movie. Sure, there was one touching scene, where her kids were banging their fists against the car windows, as they practically begged their mother to stay home with them; while Margaret looked on sternly inside the car, and ordered to the driver to head off, without even bothering to care about her families' feelings at all. Throughout the movie, it shows Margaret constantly neglecting her own family, during her Prime Minister days. But as an old woman, it shows her realizing the consequences of her actions, to attain political power, may have costed her all she holds dear later in life, as she's constantly reminded by the ghostly image of her late husband, Dennis (Jim Broadbent).
Although I will admit, Jim Broadbent does manage to create a great degree of sympathy for his character, but it's a real shame he was the only supporting character that was ever fully developed. Outside of that one touching scene with her kids, we never fully see how Margaret's neglect affects them, but rather we're told how it affects them through Dennis. If they had showed us how the neglectfulness of Margaret affected her children (versus being told), then we might have at least developed a stronger story here. One that not only highlights both the good and bad of Margaret Thatcher, but possibly create one of the deepest biopics ever made. Unfortunately, "The Iron Lady" falls short of that.
Don't get me wrong, it's still a good movie, and if you're into biopics on political figures, then you still might like this okay. However, it's clearly not the best out there, but it's fairly good for a rental. As for Meryl Streep, I thought she played her part rather well, and she definitely carried the movie during some of it's slow moments, but I would hardly say this is her best film.
Overall, I'd have to give this movie a two and a half out of four. As I said before, it's definitely worth renting if you're into these kinds of movies, but I wouldn't pay to see this in theaters. Hmm..I guess I did have a lot to say about this movie after all...
- Margaret Thatcher — History.com Articles, Video, Pictures and Facts
(born October 13, 1925, Grantham, Lincolnshire, England) British Conservative Party politician and prime minister (1979–90), Europe's first woman prime minister.
- Margaret Thatcher: The Myth Explored.
Margaret Thatcher is claimed by some to be the greatest Prime Minister the UK has ever had, but was she? Take a look at her real record of achievement.
Margaret Thatcher, leader of the Conservative Party, is sworn in as Britain's first female prime minister. The Oxford-educated chemist and lawyer was sworn in the day after the Conservatives won a 44-seat majority in general parliamentary elections.
Margaret Thatcher, the first woman prime minister in British history, announces her resignation after 11 years in Britain's top office.Margaret Hilda Roberts was born in Grantham, England, in 1925.