The Iron Lady tries to show Maggie’s soft underbelly while skimming over what made her into a monster for so many people.
Atticus Finch said “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view – until you climb into his skin and walk around in it”. To be a film critic I hear that one must be impartial which is quite hard when you hail from this island and go in to watch a film about a women whose policies you believe to have been responsible for the death of at least ten people. When you come to realise that her campaign manager, Airey Neave was killed by a car bomb planted by the INLA you can begin to understand some of her beliefs.
Thatcher came from humble beginnings as the daughter of a grocery shop owner and Alexandra Roach does a sterling job of portraying the young Margaret in her formative years, while at the same time looking like a real life Wallace and Gromit character. Absorbing the work ethic from her father and trying desperately not to end up like her mother, she will not be second fiddle to anyone, especially a man.
The flashback element that the film employs is neither original nor put to good use, it starts with Thatcher in ailing health showing signs of Alzheimer’s and having conversations with her dead husband of eight years, played here by Jim Broadbent simply going through the motions. The film then predictably lurches from past to present showing key moments of her life. The main problem of the film is it very quickly skirts over the emotional “hot potatoes” – the hunger and coal miner strikes being just two. It happily lingers in the present day forcing you to feel sympathy for an old lady in declining health. By not showing both sides it merely becomes another biopic with too many perfunctory elements to mention.
Meryl Streep does a great job of mimicking the Iron Lady but these performances never amaze me as all it shows is how proficient you are at one impression. I didn’t really see a different side to Thatcher merely her all too well-known characteristics, which at times brought to mind “Spitting Image”. The film does however show the difficulty of coming to terms with the onset of dementia and the effects it has on family members. However most of this is just artistic licence and supposition on the part of the director; Phyllida Lloyd.
I didn’t hate The Iron Lady by any means, I didn’t really feel anything. For a film about such a polarising figure this surely is a terrible feat of achievement.
UK / Phyllida Lloyd / Abi Morgan / Starring: Meryl Streep, Jim Broadbent, Alexandra Roach & Richard E. Grant / 105 min / Biography, Politics, Drama / Release: 6 January 2012 (Irl/UK), 13 January 2012 (USA/Canada)