Now I get it. All the reviews that say that Meryl Streep is great as Margaret Thatcher, first female Prime Minister of England, in The Iron Lady, but the film, not so much, are pretty dead on. This movie starts off with a way-too-long bit with the aging Thatcher talking to her dead husband Denis (Jim Broadbent). It flashes back to the young Margaret Roberts (Alexandra Roach), daughter of a grocer with political ambitions, supported in this effort, at least in theory, by young Denis Thatcher (Harry Lloyd). Then back and forth between the elderly Maggie’s recollections and Thatcher (Streep) dealing with policy – often represented by stock footage of real events in the real MT’s 11-year rule. It’s a mess, yet Streep’s presence redeems it, but only somewhat. I think it would have been a better film of the older Thatcher recalling her past as she wrote the her memoir, not trying to assume what’s going on in her presumably demented mind.
My wife, who saw it with me at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany on Saturday, felt kinder to the film. It may be because she was actually IN England during the Falklands War and had a Member of Parliament as one of her instructors at the time. Also because the film did address the issues of a woman being discounted. My wife liked the not-perfect makeup Thatcher applied, or her awkwardness wearing heels. There is a makeover scene which is my personal favorite.
What WAS interesting to both of us, though, was the series of struggles to balance the rights of unions with the desires of management, the fight over the fairness of the tax code, and the ability of the government to find money for war even in a period of austerity; if I didn’t know better, I’d say it could have been the United States in the second decade of the 21st century.
I’m still theorizing that Streep will FINALLY receive another Oscar for this film. She has been nominated 14 times as best lead actress, and won once, for Sophie’s Choice, which came out in 1982. (She’s also 1 for 3 in the supporting category – 1979’s Kramer v. Kramer). It may be cynical, but I think that race still matters in Hollywood. It’s fairly clear that Octavia Spencer will win as best supporting actress for her role as a maid in The Help; she got the Screen Actors Guild, the Golden Globes, and probably some others. Meanwhile, Viola Davis won the SAG for best actress, but Streep won it from the GGs. I just don’t think the Academy is going to select two black women for major awards in the same year. I could be wrong; I’ve surely been wrong before. And Streep is deserving, but so is Davis.
Meryl Streep says her top priority when playing a character is to convince the other actors that she is who is playing.