Today, we have an English guest writer, Isabella Woods, who writes about The Iron Lady. So, the readers of Filmmedia gets a review on this movie two weeks before the swedish premiere (feb 3rd). Ain’t that swell! And I can tell you that she has some very good points about the movie. Thank you very much for your insights Izzy!
The Iron Lady
Choosing an American to play the English part of one of the world’s greatest leaders might be a difficult undertaking most producers would wish to turn down, but with Meryl Streep in the lead role, the chances of success increase many times over. Such is the level of her mastery of the language and the actual portrayal of Margaret Thatcher in The Iron Lady, that the awards season may see Ms Streep receive her third Academy Award for Best Actress.
If you are torn between considering the latest ski deals in Sweden or taking 105 minutes at your local cinema to see The Iron Lady, then the choice is a difficult one because the director has chosen to make only half a movie about Margaret Thatcher’s rise to fame as Britain’s Prime Minister. The second half of the movie looks at her life since she has become senile and spends far too long seeing her talking to an imaginary husband who died in 2003.
You could easily be fooled into thinking that the brilliant director Phyllida Lloyd has made the wrong film. After the worldwide success of Mamma Mia where Ms Lloyd proved her directorial skills, also leading Meryl Streep, the next step shouldn’t really be focused on the wandering mind of a former Prime Minister whose mind was so sharp she could cut people in two with her verbal assaults and regularly did.
The critics are all raving about Meryl Streep’s performance. She has instantly become Margaret Thatcher. The voice and the manner in which she moves and performs speeches could easily fool an audience into believing the director had used real footage. Unfortunately, those same critics wonder if an opportunity has been missed to present a more complete look back through history.
It will always be a difficult task trying to cover the entirety of a leader’s political and personal life in an hour and a half. The screenplay writer (in this case Abi Morgan who did excellent work adapting 2007’s Brick Lane) completes her work well; it’s just that the work is the wrong choice.
In particular, Keith Joseph, Nicholas Ridley and Norman Tebbit have been ignored completely. These three men formed the backbone of the UK political side of Margaret Thatcher’s team during her terms in office.
The movie ignores how the Prime Minster led Britain from almost bankruptcy to create the economic strength of character that has led the country the past twenty years to its financially sound position. It also completely fails to look at her trying to take the UK away from the European Monetary Union and membership of the euro, a point so important that it finally caused her own team to side against her and end her reign as Prime Minster.
It is difficult to know whether there is a political motive behind the portrayal of Margaret Thatcher’s senile years, to somehow show her at her worst to balance away against the challenges she fought against during her fifteen years as leader of the Conservative party and leader of the nation for eleven years.
Certainly, the UK is still split over her handling of many events that took the lives of people in the UK and abroad. Those with her political party saw her as a great world leader while those against her talk of her in a breath usually reserved for dictators and mass murderers. This film doesn’t give an opinion either way; it just rushes over some of Britain’s premier national events to get to the next in the quickest time possible.
Where this film does score well is in the portrayal of how one lady was forced to act almost as one of the men to overcome the thought that a woman could lead a country. Margaret Thatcher is still the only female Prime Minister to lead the UK.
The current Prime Minster, David Cameron, and many of Margaret Thatcher’s closest associates haven’t enjoyed the film. Perhaps they were expecting a biopic adventure showing Margaret Thatcher’s great leadership.
It could be that after so much sugar coating in Mamma Mia, the director wanted to gather sympathy for the former Prime Minister’s current state of health so history might be kinder in their recollections of the lady that sent a country to war halfway across the world to protect islands that no-one had heard of until they’d been invaded.