The Iron Lady

By Kathryn Schroeder
Released: December 30, 2011
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THE IRON LADY is a surprising and intimate portrait of Margaret Thatcher (Meryl Streep), the first and only female Prime Minister of The United Kingdom. One of the 20th century’s most famous and influential women, Thatcher came from nowhere to smash through barriers of gender and class to be heard in a male dominated world.
Film Review
Margaret Thatcher was the first woman ever appointed to the highest ranking post in Government in the West. She was the British Prime Minister for over ten years, and during her tenure was involved with a number of country-changing policies, global threats, and arguably the greatest of all her achievements, helping to end the Cold War. The Iron Lady synopsis states that it is a film about "one of the 20th century's most famous and influential women, Thatcher came from nowhere to smash through barriers of gender and class to be heard in a male dominated world." The Iron Lady is indeed a film about Margaret Thatcher, but it is not one that celebrates her achievements or provides an intimate and insightful look into how she achieved her political aspirations or dealt with the many problems and issues that plagued her terms in office. The film instead focuses a great deal on her later life, where she is slowly deteriorating into a state of dementia, speaks with her dead husband's ghost, and via visual or sound cues takes the viewer back in time to witness the rise of Margaret Thatcher and the time afterwards. The flashbacks merely gloss over the larger points of her career and life, and it is gravely misfortunate that a woman as great as Margaret Thatcher has been given such a poor biographical portrait on film.

The Iron Lady is a mere shell of a biography, only showing small snippets of Margaret Thatcher's life in lieu of delving deep into the woman's life history. There are scenes that show how she came to be in government, and how marriage helped her along the way. The film does not forget to portray briefly the problems she encountered at home with her children and husband by being considered an absentee parent and wife given her career aspirations. Her rise to Prime Minister seems an easy feat when anyone with a small knowledge of history and feminist rights knows this was not the case. The Iron lady is more concerned with Margaret Thatcher past her prime, where she makes breakfast for her dead husband. As for the Cold War dealings the script merely glances over them, and with as much sarcasm one can write with, deals with the situation as "oh, I think I'll help end the cold war today, while wearing a pretty dress." Given the many historically significant events that occurred during Thatcher's terms one would expect to see a great rendition of the events and how she dealt with each one. The script for The Iron Lady chooses to throw things together hastily instead of providing exposition. The end result is a dull telling of a magnificent and important woman's life and career.
Meryl Streep has become the go-to actress for biographical portraits of well-known women of historical or topical significance, such as Julia Child (Julie & Julia) and Anna Wintour (The Devil Wears Prada). She is also the actress most likely to be nominated for an Academy Award, and all other awards, each and every year she appears in a film regardless of the merits of such film. The Iron Lady may not be the strongest film overall but Streep still manages to convince the viewer that she is indeed Margaret Thatcher, pursed lips, pearls and all. Her performance is as good as it can possibly be given the preachy nature of the dialogue, when Thatcher is in Parliament or at home. She can come across as snobbish and uppity, and given Thatcher's humble beginnings it is an interesting twist on the character.

For Streep the greatest challenge of the character is not becoming Margaret Thatcher on screen, a simple imitation would not suffice for such a character. Streep had to take on two very different roles in one character. There is the Margaret Thatcher that took on Parliament to be heard as one of the men would be heard and the other Thatcher, the aging woman who is slowly deteriorating into dementia, and slight madness. While Streep is every bit the Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher she is strongest playing the elderly Thatcher, the one who cannot keep her memories straight, or clearly understand why her dead husband is in the room, and the persona who showcases the more-or-less cold relationship she has with her daughter. It is the Margaret Thatcher The Iron Lady does not market to the viewer where Streep shines. Luckily this Thatcher is given more time and development in the script than the tough-talking Thatcher of Parliament. Meryl Streep very rarely lets down a viewer with the character's she plays and her portrayal of Margaret Thatcher continues her success of portraying famous women on screen skillfully.

Drama, Biography
Release Date
December 30, 2011
MPAA Rating
PG 13
Production Designer
Music Score