Monday, January 16, 2012
"The Iron Lady": Meryl Streep becomes Margaret Thatcher (the conservatism is softly pedaled)
“The Iron Lady” (directed by Phyllida Lloyd) is a somewhat extravagant biography of Margaret Thatcher (b. 1925), the “conservative” British politician, serving in Parliament from 1959-1970, Education Secretary until 1974, leader of the Conservative Party until 1979, and then Prime Minister until 1990.
The film is told through fluid flashbacks, generated naturally as Thatcher cleans out her husband’s belongings after he passes. The film starts with her buying a pint of milk.
Meryl Streep really is amazing as Thatcher, and totally Brit. Nothing of the eclecticism of her many past roles (as in “Sophie’s Choice) comes through. (I have imagined Streep as right for the part of “high school principal” in my own “Do Ask Do Tell” screenplay.) The makeup must have been amazing. James Broadbent (whom I remember most from HBO’s 2006 film “Longford” from Tom Hooper, depicting the Lord’s work with prisoners). Streep won the Golden Globe for best performance by an actress in a drama (story).
Thatcher herself is slowing down in present day, and life is getting a bit tedious. She would be 86 now. That’s really not that old.
The film does not explain her philosophy in a lot of detail, but she says her beliefs are based on saving Britain. There is a scene where she talks with her husband about the difference between “feelings” and “thoughts”. People need to pay more attention to “thoughts”.
Nevertheless, the anger and indignation of some of the public comes through, in the demonstrations and sometimes (IRA-related) violence. Her defense cuts help tempt the rebels in Argentina into the Falklands war, with tragic loss of life to families of British sailors.
As a biography, and with a somewhat artificial narrative construct, the film doesn't have the tension of some other historical dramas (compare to "The King's Speech" in Dec. 2010).
The film is distributed in the US by the Weinstein Company, but has large corporate support in Britain, including Film Four, Pathe and 20th Century Fox.
I believe I spotted one person I know personally as an uncredited extra.
The official site is here.
I saw it late Sunday afternoon at the AMC Shirlington in Arlington VA in the largest auditorium, about three-fourths full. It is shot in full 2.35:1 aspect.
Wikipedia attribution link for picture of Thatcher with Reagans.