Thursday, April 26, 2012

Movie Review: The Iron Lady

The Iron Lady is biopic about former UK Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, her rise to power in 1979, and her remarkable ten plus years governing a country experiencing both political and economic turmoil. The movie opens with Thatcher,  played by award-winning actress, Meryl Streep, in her old age, frail and suffering from dementia. She cannot remember that her beloved husband, Denis Thatcher is deceased and sometimes doesn't even know herself. She has hallucinations of him living with her and often speaks as if he were in her presence. Margaret cannot bring herself to let go of Denis' clothing.

In a series of flashbacks, we experience the significant milestones of Margaret Thatcher's life. At age twenty-four, the young Margaret Roberts, daughter of a grocer, made an unsuccessful bid for election as an MP in Parliament. Although discouraged at this "disaster", she is persuaded by Denis, who loves her, to not give up on her ambitions. Denis proposes to Margaret, with the full knowledge of exactly the type of woman she is. "One's life must matter." she tells him, emphatically stating that she will not be the type of wife content to muddle about at home cleaning tea cups.

In 1959, she finally does win a seat in the election as Conservative MP for Finchley. Her strong personality stood her in good staid in the man's world of British politics, where heckling and derision by opposition MP's in Parliament was a frequent occurrence.

In 1974, Margaret decided to run for the leadership of the Conservative Party mainly because she wanted to force the party to remain true to its principles. "Someone must force the point - say the unsayable!". She doesn't believe she will win but she does.

As history tells us, Thatcher is elected as Prime Minister in 1979 and the film runs through many of the major crises she experienced as leader of the British Commonwealth; the 1983 strikers, IRA bombings, the Falklands War and the fall of the Berlin Wall. Her rule was characterized by uncompromising resolve and she was soon dubbed "The Iron Lady" by the Soviets who were more familiar with the vacillating leaders of the West.

Although The Iron Lady is not a captivating film, and at times is dry, it's impossible not to be amazed at Steep's ability to capture the mannerisms of Margaret Thatcher and effect a brilliant portrayal of the woman who was the first head of state in the West. Streep effectively juxtaposes the youthful Thatcher's strong personality with that of the elderly Thatcher who is shown as a frail, elderly woman, unmoored by the loss of her beloved husband. In the end, The Iron Lady was after all, human - something the film attempts to portray and in my opinion succeeds.

Streep has a strong supporting cast especially Jim Broadbent as Thatcher's husband, Denis. I was especially taken with Alexander Roach's performance as the young Margaret Roberts and I wish the film had delved into more of the young Margaret's life.

To aid in the film's realistic portrayal of the Thatcher era, there is news footage of Thatcher and also specific events that occurred during her years as Prime Minister. This footage defines the cultural setting Thatcher existed within and the magnitude of the problems she faced head on. For those of us who lived through the 1980's, these clips brings back many memories.

 The Iron Lady is a film about a one of the most important world leaders in the late 20th century. It is also yet again, a vehicle showcasing the fine acting talents of Meryl Streep.

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