Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister of the UK when I was about six months old, and she left office when I was about twelve years old. I grew up watching the major networks’ nightly national news every night with my parents, so I knew who Margaret Thatcher was in regards to the UK. I did not grasp the significance of Margaret Thatcher reaching that level of political stature until I was older. The Prime Minister is basically like the President for us. The US has never had a woman President, or Vice President for that matter, although we came close a couple of times. Margaret Thatcher definitely broke the glass ceiling for women in the UK, but no woman since then has risen to that position since. She was at the forefront of the minds of people of the UK for over eleven years.
I find it kind of odd that a film about her life is just now coming out. It has been over twenty years since she was in office. It seems only fitting that two women were critical to bringing Margaret Thatcher’s life to the screen in The Iron Lady; screenwriter Abi Morgan and director Phyllida Lloyd.
The Iron Lady is not what I expected the film to be. It is told mostly through flashbacks as an aging Margaret Thatcher struggles with her age and her obviously declining mind. Most of the screen time is spent focusing on the aged Thatcher. There are not any lengthy flashbacks to her early life until twenty-five minutes into the film. While I believe the film probably touched on the major points in her career as Prime Minister, I would not consider this a well-rounded biographical film. The film is choosy as to what events get told, and it does not broach the subject of her family life for very long.
This film is a Meryl Streep film. She is the main character, and there are not any big name actors supporting her role other than Jim Broadbent who plays Thatcher’s husband, Dennis. He is both present in the flashbacks and in the present sense as a figment of Thatcher’s declining mind. Meryl Streep is magnificent in the role. The very first scene of the film has Thatcher in a market buying some milk after she escapes her house. I had to pinch myself because for about 30 seconds I thought that it was Thatcher on that screen. The makeup and hair is spot on throughout the entire film. Streep picked up on Thatcher’s mannerisms and changes in her stance as the years progress. Meryl Streep becomes Margaret Thatcher, and I do not think there are many actors out there that could have pulled off this kind of performance. Any nominations or awards Meryl Streep receives because of this role are rightly deserved.
I came away from The Iron Lady wanting to know more about Margaret Thatcher. The film did not give me what I felt was a good idea of what this woman’s life was like. It seems discriminating in what the film depicts. Rather than telling the story always from flashbacks, I would have liked to have seen the film in chronological order after that first flashback. Constantly going back to the aged Thatcher seemed to break the continuity of the film. I came away from the film knowing there are probably other points in her life that could have been depicted, but the film is focused too much on the aging woman. People are not going to go and see this film to see what Thatcher is like now. They are going to go and see it because they think it is a biographical film on her life.
The Iron Lady is a film with a memorable and utterly fantastic performance by Meryl Streep. However, the filmmakers missed the opportunity to make a great biographical film about one of the most extraordinary women of our time. The film is good, but it did not go the lengths to make this a great film.
I give The Iron Lady 3 “double strand of pearls” out of 5.