The Iron Lady, a biopic about conservative British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, boasts one of Meryl Streep’s greatest performances. She wholly immerses herself in the role such that I see and hear Thatcher even while I know it’s Streep.
Beyond the actress alone, though, the film is almost two stories in one, the obvious one featuring Thatcher’s life story and a much more intimate one involving the elderly Margaret and her dementia-conjured husband Denis (played endearingly by Jim Broadbent). While the first shines a spotlight on the impact she had on history, I prefer the second, which is more emotional and bittersweet. When she sits contentedly talking to an empty chair about the price of milk or turns on all the kitchen appliances to drown out her delusions, I can’t help but think that this plotline could easily have made an excellent film with no connection to Thatcher at all. The scene with Denis’s departure is particularly touching.
As for the historical side, I commend the filmmakers for not only keeping the film clean (aside from a brief shot of nudity) but also staying surprisingly neutral in their portrayal of Thatcher. It does seem as if they focus too much on the negative effects of her policies (violent protests, IRA bombings), but at least her conservative ideology is allowed its say as well. Though there’s an uncomfortable scene of her acting unusually harsh, presumably from stress, the film focuses for the most part on her accomplishments, her empowering of women, her victory with the Falklands War, her concern for the mothers of fallen soldiers, and her sincere desire to help the British nation (whether people agreed with her methods or not).
While I don’t know how accurate the depiction of her later years is, the final scene bears a quiet and meaningful message of the inevitability of old age and things we never would have considered doing in youth, a theme that transcends an ordinary biopic. Streep certainly deserved her Best Actress Oscar, and whether or not one likes or agrees with Thatcher, it’s a powerful film that’s well worth watching.
Best line: (Denis, as Margaret is viewing old family movies of her children) “You can rewind it, but you can’t change it.”
VC’s best line: (Margaret Thatcher) “Watch your thoughts, for they become words. Watch your words, for they become actions. Watch your actions, for they become habits. Watch your habits, for they become your character. And watch your character, for it becomes your destiny. What we think, we become. My father always said that.”Artistry: 10 Characters/Actors: 10 Entertainment: 6 Visual Effects: N/A (except for one explosion) Originality: 9 Watchability: 6 TOTAL: 41 out of 60
Next: #202 – Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind
© 2014 S. G. Liput
135 Followers and Counting