Skip to comments.The Iron Lady Impresses As Streep Soars
Posted on 01/18/2012 4:11:51 AM PST by Kaslin
American conservatives and admirers of Margaret Thatcher the world over seem to be approaching The Iron Lady, a new biopic about the former British Prime Minister, with justifiable skepticism. Hollywood isn’t exactly celebrated for its fair – let alone favorable – treatment of political figures who dare to defy Tinseltown’s notorious liberal consensus. Decidedly mixed reviews and cries of bias from certain quarters have also fed many Thatcher fans’ reticence to reward the filmmakers with their hard-earned dollars. Fortunately, conservatives have little to fear from The Iron Lady, which surprises with a moving, even-handed and, at times, inspirational portrayal of one of the Right’s twentieth century titans.
Much of the buzz about this project has revolved around Meryl Streep’s role as Lady Thatcher, and with good reason: Streep is sensational. Former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan captured the depth of Streep’s performance in a recent Wall Street Journal column. “The masterpiece is Meryl Streep's portrayal of Mrs. Thatcher, which is not so much a portrayal as an inhabitation. It doesn't do justice to say Ms. Streep talks like her, looks like her, catches some of her spirit, though those things are true. It's something deeper than that, something better and more important,” she wrote.
But the heart of the movie isn’t Streep’s uncanny skill in capturing her subject’s essence. Rather, the film’s strength is its subject’s essence – her life story, her principles, and her extraordinary achievements. In spite of whispers to the contrary, The Iron Lady does not gloss over or dismiss Margaret Thatcher’s philosophical core as an unpleasant side show. The film ably tracks Thatcher’s unmistakably conservative course, beginning with a scene in which a young Thatcher (then named Margaret Roberts, played beautifully by Alexandra Roach) witnesses her father – a local grocer – deliver an impassioned speech on the value of hard work and self-reliance. Years later, as a low-ranking minister in Britain’s Conservative government, Thatcher counsels her poll-obsessed superiors against capitulating to labor unions’ demands during the throes of a destructive strike. Though her sage advice is discarded with a condescending pat on the head, her political courage is galvanized.
In an especially memorable monologue, an elderly Thatcher asserts that one’s thoughts eventually become one’s character – and one’s character, in turn, becomes one’s destiny. This formulation underscores the point that Thatcher’s beliefs define her, and compelled her to pursue and fulfill her grand destiny. Throughout, the odds are stacked against her. Not only is she forced to swim upstream in Britain’s political fraternity of privilege and paternalism, she similarly stares down the challenge of resisting, and ultimately defeating, the “lily-livered” risk aversion that paralyzes her own party. In improbably accomplishing these goals, Thatcher ascends to previously-unseen heights for a female Western leader. She embraces victory, pointedly refusing to “manage the decline” of her beloved homeland. Instead, she insists on feeding its citizens the medicine (unflinching fiscal conservatism) that she contends hold the cure for economic malaise.
Amidst violent protests in the streets of London, blistering critiques from her Labour Party opponents, and endless hand-wringing within her conservative cabinet, Thatcher resolutely implements her vision. The country flourishes, and Thatcher is rewarded with an unprecedented eleven-and-a-half year stay at Number 10 Downing Street.
In spite of its many attributes, the film isn’t perfect. Some have questioned the decision to focus heavily on Thatcher’s twilight years, as her mind begins to deteriorate. This approach could have been a grotesque flop if Streep and director Phyllida Lloyd hadn’t treated the difficult subject matter with admirable respect and finesse. Yes, the script lingers a bit too long on Thatcher after her prime, but it also humanizes her. Yes, her imagined conversations with her deceased husband, Denis – portrayed with an endearing sparkle by Jim Broadbent – are ponderous at times, but they also offer moving insights into the nature of love and the heart-wrenching difficulty of saying goodbye. And yes, the film’s heavy reliance on flashbacks to steer its story arch occasionally veers into tiresome territory, but it helps juxtapose the frustrations of an increasingly vulnerable and dependent elderly woman with her heady rise to the pinnacle of power just a few decades earlier.
Some conservatives may lament the film’s fleeting, inadequate review of Thatcher’s Cold War leadership, as well as the relegation of her friendship and alliance with President Reagan to a whirlwind montage. These are fair criticisms. Although most of the filmmakers’ choices were sound, these few were curious and merit some second-guessing. On the whole, however, The Iron Lady offers men and (perhaps especially) women of the Right much to savor. In its portrayal of her spirited and unapologetic limited government advocacy, her steady resolve in the face of terrorism, and her decisiveness, compassion, and patriotism in wartime, the film delivers several ‘stand up and cheer’ moments for Thatcher’s devotees and political kindred spirits. It’s also likely to evince some degree of grudging respect from her detractors. A tough balance, and a rare treat.
Margaret Thatcher is a world historical figure who has earned a thoughtful and honest review of her legacy. The Iron Lady, though flawed, hits this mark and should be welcomed by all those who embrace Thatcherism, or at least appreciate the intrinsic value of an honorable and consequential life, well lived.
I remember a ‘Spitting Image’ episode where Baroness Thatcher and her Cabinet are out to dinner. Thatcher gives the waiter her entree order and he asks ‘and your vegetables?’. She says ‘ they’ll have the same’. I know this never happened but it aptly sums up her power.
(Spitting Image was a satirical puppet TV show when we lived in Britain.)
Always thought, of the many pictures of them together, that this one said the most.
I’m sure it’s worth seeing. Meryl was amazing as Julia Childs.
I recently watched The King’s Speech and was pleasantly surprised that I actually liked it.
Spitting Image was in many ways the forefather of South Park in how it treated politicians and entertainers. I lived in England in the early 90’s and watched it a lot. I loved how the John Major puppet was always filmed as grey. Are any of these on Netflix or YouTube?
Since I so distrust Hollywood, I haven’t decided if I am going to bother seeing this film. Hollywood creates its own reality and I have no interest in seeing Thatcher forced through the liberal mindset.
This was an amazing film, and Streep’s performance was truly stunning. It doesn’t express political opinion, btw, but simply shows things (a lot of TV footage) from the past and shows her as both popular and unpopular. Leftists didn’t like it because they expected it to say she was evil, evil, evil, but it really has more to do with her personal life and reflections.
She’s still alive, of course, so it might be a bit of a stretch. But the film is really powerful and touching and beautifully filmed.
I stopped reading at the Noonan quote. . .natural barf reaction to anything Noonan.
First the movie itself. It is horrid. 60% of the time is wasted showing Mrs. thatcher in 2011 as a doddering senile old woman. The producers spent all their time and money showing this fictionalized characterization of her in the worst possible light.
Virtually nothing is shown of her triumphs. She is depicted as spoiled white child and anally retentive woman bent on destroying working class and minority Brits. Her cooperation with Ronald Reagan to end Communism? 30 seconds. The Falklands? She is a war criminal for sinking the Belgrano.
Streep is wonderful in capturing her look and voice, but that's mimicry, not a movie. It's as if the Occupy Wallstreet crowd had become Occupy Hollywood Script Writers... and got even more stoned in the process.
All in all, it's great acting by one person in a horribly, insulting movie. It's as if Michael Moore made a 2 hour movie about the last 2 hours of Ronald Reagan's life.
Let's just hope that people want to see it to learn about one of America's strong supporters (as I do) and not Streep's performance.
Leftists didnt like it because they expected it to say she was evil, evil, evil, but it really has more to do with her personal life and reflections.
I've noticed how the lefty liberals have demeaned all those who have supported America.
Don't give that fat ba$t@rd any ideas!!
I understand. Charlie Rose had one of the producer/distributors, Harvey Weinstein, on as a guest after Weinstein scored a three-fer at the Golden Globules, one of them for Iron Lady. Asked about the film, Weinstein said that he saw Thatcher (i.e., he is presenting Thatcher) as a pro-abort, gay-friendly closet liberal femalist. IOW something pretty close to the harridans at NARAL.
But then, Hollywood types do like to a) misrepresent people (like George Custer, J. Edgar Hoover) and b) play capture-the-flag with famous faces (gays do that inveterately: Jesus was gay, Paul of Tarsus was gay, John the Evangelist was gay, Abraham Lincoln was gay, and who ya got?).
Anyway, Weinstein isn't the script writer or director, so his comments should be taken as front-row kibitzing rather than imagineering. He's the kind of guy the real creators go to see, just to get greenlighted and get their hands on production dough.
Thanks for the info. I’ll probably see it when it comes to video.
jThis actress is extremely liberal: how can she do justice to this part?
Figured. Won't waste my money.
Boring. I lived through the Thatcher and Reagan years. They were awesome. Why would I want some liberal douchebag version of them?
I was leery of what I was told was a negative portrait of Thatcher, but five minutes into the film, when one Conservative leader tells the others that the government even owns the air, so you better not breathe too deep, I knew I was in the right place.
There is much acid criticism of socialism and praise of free enterprise. The scene where Al Haig tries to talk Thatcher out of defending the Falklands is totally priceless.
I did not mind the portrayal of her dementia. Her brilliant mind comes through in the midst of it and it is a beautiful thing to behold.
Very well done, all who had a part in it. Not really one second of mediocre acting or one false note. I could go on but I will leave the rest to your enjoyment.
I’ll wait till the library gets the DVD and take it out for free.