A movie called The Iron Lady in the context about Britain’s history could only refer to one person – Margaret Thatcher.
Whether you love or hate her, Thatcher’s achievements were truly remarkable and the well titled biopic is in my opinion, a generous tribute to the mighty Iron Lady. And as one would expect, Meryl Streep does not disappoint. An outstanding performance where she even masters Thatcher’s physical quirks.
Thatcher’s story is told in a surprisingly style of piecing the story together through flashbacks as present day Maggie is being haunted by her late husband. Quite honestly, I don’t know what to make of this depiction of her. On the one hand it is inspirational and you admire her, on the other hand it is brutal and you despise her, and on the imaginary third hand, it is an emotional journey that makes you feel quite sorry for her. Perhaps that’s the point. But as much as I enjoyed the film, I think so many contradictions in so little time can make watching it a bit of a struggle.
The present day depiction of Thatcher shows her to be an elderly lady who still holds all the determination, stubbornness (that borders on pig headedness) and, moments of articulation of her youth. But it also shows how she is haunted by the memories of her past which is largely materialised through her sightings of, and conversations with, the ghost of her late husband. It essentially shows an old woman, who is a bit awkward and stubborn who feels imprisoned in not being able to go out to the local shop to buy some milk without people fussing over her.
Her flashbacks start from her youth where she clearly idolises her father, a grocer with some political involvement with the Conservative party and how from her humble beginnings, she pursues her fight to be heard which beautifully, merges into her pursuit to make a difference. As she enters the male dominated world of politics, there is the (one of many) poignant scene showing her prominent blue had bobbing amidst bald heads. And we see how her steely determination and skill to convey her passion with conviction, gets her to where she reached.
Her political self is balanced by showing how her focused, almost blinkered ambition, affects her home life and one cannot help but admire her husband for standing by and supporting her. James Brown may have been accurate for Maggie, who thrived in a man’s world but at home, she relied on the support of her man, Denis Thatcher.
However much Thatcher was up against the male dominant environment she wished to succeed in though, it was the faith and leadership that a couple of them saw in her that actually made her aim for being Prime Minister. Her ‘makeover’ that followed reminded me loosely of Miss Congeniality, not a movie I would expect to find parallels with, but it’s true. In order to eliminate remarks like “doth screeches too much”, she undergoes vocal coaching, in order to be seen as a leader, she gets her hair redone and is advised to lose the hat and pearls, the latter of which she refuses to give up.
Streep’s performance is so accurate that I found myself shaking my head during a scene where she behaves appallingly dictatorially, belittling members of her team and it is in moments like this where you despise the lady. And it is easy to see why so many believe that despite her brilliance, her inability to acknowledge the grey matter resulted in a trail of destruction.
This is not a movie for those who have an axe to grind, or hope that it will enable them a deeper understanding of political history but instead, is for those who wish to watch a drama, with a dash of humour, an emotionally charged journey, and a portrayal of Thatcher that is 100% and unequivocally, human.