Sunday, 4 December 2011


Icon Film Distribution
Now Showing

Whatever your opinion of Margaret Thatcher, the first female prime minister of Great Britain whose legacy could be diplomatically described as polarizing or, more bluntly, as reviled, there's no doubt about Meryl Streep's interpretation of the so-called Iron Lady of British politics.

Playing both Thatcher in her prime, governing Britain from 1979 to 1991, and the present day Baroness, grieving her husband and suffering from dementia, Streep is at the top of her game.

As the older Thatcher particularly, Streep is sublime. Aided by flawless "old age" make-up, the actress disappears inside the role of a once vital woman who has, for the most part thanks to the onset of dementia, disappeared inside her own mind; rattling around her large London apartment just as the ghosts of her past rattle inside her head.

Directed by Phyllida Lloyd (Mamma Mia! (2008)), and penned by Abi Morgan (who also co-wrote the forthcoming Shame), The Iron Lady moves between the past and the present as the older Thatcher is haunted by both her career - from her youth as a shopkeeper's daughter to her dogged determination to be taken seriously in politics, and subsequent success - and the "ghost" of her late husband, Denis (a solid Jim Broadbent), dead some eight years when the film begins.

Morgan's screenplay veers more toward hagiography than hatchet job, preferring to highlight Thatcher's glass ceiling breaking feats rather than the political and social fallout of her time in office. Those with little or know knowledge of Thatcher's prime ministership won't learn much more here, with real and faux news footage revealing mere snippets of her time in power and even less about the effects it had on the British people.

Perhaps Morgan could have taken a leaf out fellow scribe and chronicler of British politics, Peter Morgan (no relation), and added some much needed shade to the film's "heroine", as he did so successfully with The Queen (2006), where he humanised without sentimentalising Elizabeth II. Or as he did with Frost/Nixon (2008), a film which also posits a former, and much despised conservative political leader, US president Richard Nixon, at its centre.

Political flaws aside, The Iron Lady has always been about Meryl Streep portraying an iconic historical figure. We all suggested, perhaps cynically, that Oscar nomination #17 was a fait accompli but I'd now suggest, sans cynicism, that a nod for Best Actress is almost a done deal - and deservedly so.

But will she win her third Oscar, her first since Sophie's Choice in 1982?! That remains to be seen, but regardless of the film's failings and my own political leanings, I'd happily Vote 1 Meryl Streep.

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