Saturday 14 January 2012

Review: The Iron Lady

CAUTION: Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.


The Iron Lady
105 mins / Dir. Phyllida Lloyd

I can't honestly say I've got much beef with Margaret Thatcher personally. I was alive when she was in power but I was basically a kid so I didn't take a lot of interest in politics (not that I take much more now). All I know was that in the media at the time, a lot of people were making out she was a massive bastard, and all the grown ups I knew were making out she was a massive bastard. But that's probably because I lived in The North™.

So with that in mind, I went to see The Iron Lady as a film, not a historical document.

The film opens in the present day, with MT as an elderly woman suffering (knowingly) with the onset of dementia. The main symptom of this is that she sees and talks with her husband, Dennis, despite him having died several years earlier, which represents her inability to let go, and also her fear at what she'll find if she does. Her career is told progressively through a series of flashbacks, bringing her to the point where she can finally move on*1.

So, how does it do? As a narrative, it's patchy. Being only partly familiar with the history, it seemed to me that they skipped over key points of MT's career in less time than they deserved. The flashbacks are, for the most part, short and frequent, and seem more like a Greatest Hits than a descriptive re-capping. The bias of the film certainly lies in her favour, with the Falklands War and miner's strikes seeming like a fuss-about-nothing. Even I remember that they weren't.

The film's real strength is in Meryl Streep's performance. She is outstanding in this. Seriously. There were only two distinct and very brief moments where my brain thought 'oh, that's Meryl Streep', but for every other second of that film, she's Thatcher*2. Her present-day portrayal is the most affecting, but she deserves all the accolades she'll undoubtedly pick up for this. The rest of the cast are good enough, but poor old Jim Broadbent only seems to be able to play Jim Broadbent™ these days. Likeable, but always himself. Rather like Bill Nighy in that respect.

All in all, it's difficult for me to say that I actually enjoyed it as such, but I'm definitely glad I saw it, if that makes any sense. It hasn't given me any political insight into the times, nor made me want to research it further. It's one of those films that could have been quite happily made for BBC4 and been broadcast with far less fanfare than it's received, but still won the same amount of respect.

A very solid five. Streep's performance is a straight seven, but her co-stars can't shine like she does.


*1 No, not like that. She's alive at the end, no matter what you were hoping for.
*2 Well, okay. She does seem quite like Catherine Tate's Nan character for the last 10 minutes or so...

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.

• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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