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The Iron Lady – Review

The Iron Lady – Review

By James Clark

Score 4/5

Having previously worked with this actress on 2008’s summer hit Mamma Mia, director Phyllida Lloyd sure knows how to exact a rousing performance from Academy Award winner Meryl Streep. Nominated more than almost any other actress working in the business today, it has been almost thirty years since Streep took the Best Actress crown for her work in Sophie’s Choice (Alan J Pakula, USA, 1982) but it is looking likely that she may have a third golden statue to add to her mantel this season as her performance in Margaret Thatcher biopic The Iron Lady is nothing short of remarkable. From Consolata Boyle’s exquisite costume design to Thomas Newman’s subtle score, the film is simultaneously a delicate portrait of a frail old woman and a biography of an undeniably powerful leader with an even more powerful public presence.

Whatever your opinion of Thatcher’s regimes and her miscalculated decisions during her 11 year reign in office between 1979 and 1990, she carried a heavy burden. She was the first female Prime Minister in this country in a government dominated by masculinity and she overcame adversity and misogyny in order to stand up for her beliefs. In this respect she was every bit the leader a nation could hope for. Just contrast this with the pitiful attempts of David Cameron and there is no argument as to who has made the bigger difference to this country, albeit for good or bad. The film thus presents Thatcher as both a woman who stands by her morals and begs to be heard at the same time as generating audience pathos for a woman who, in old age, reminds us all of the futility of life. She made decisions that cost lives, she brought economic destruction but she will be remembered.

It is in Streep’s heartfelt declaration to husband Dennis, (played with great comic relief by Jim Broadbent), that she wants to make a difference in her life and does not want to die in the kitchen washing up a tea cup, that the human being emerges. Thatcher is such a duplicitous character and as such the film will seem controversial to many. I am in agreement with critics that praise Streep’s meticulous mimicry of Thatcher from her speech to her body language, yet at the same time the story seems to be a little choppy. The narrative seems to dispense with much of Thatcher’s actions during her time in office and only sporadically uses actual footage to highlight the effect that her irrational decisions had on the United Kingdom and the world.

As a character study, this is Streep’s film. As the eponym of the title she puts her all into the physicality and the emotion of the character and the moment that she finally lets Dennis go reminds us that this is a woman who, despite being power hungry and neglecting her children in favour of this power, has a heart and a voice, whether we choose to listen or ignore.

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Categories: Film Reviews
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