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The Iron Lady

Sr. Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.

Is there anyone the multi-nominated and Oscar winning actress Meryl Streep cannot portray? As I was leaving the theater after watching this most watchable film I asked a woman if she came for a movie about Margaret Thatcher or to see Meryl Streep perform? She smiled and said, “If I have to tell the truth then it was to see Meryl Streep.”

I admit it as well: I went to see Meryl Streep become Britain’s first and so far only female Prime Minister, transformed by the magic of Hollywood makeup artists and who knows, perhaps with touchups from Photoshop for movies. Thatcher held office from 1979 – 1990 as a staunch Conservative and likely parallel political partner to her American cousin across the pond, Ronald Reagan  (1981 – 1989), but the film begins closer to the present, after Thatcher’s husband Denis (Jim Broadbent) had died in 2005.
No one recognizes the little old lady who escapes from her household keepers to buy a pint of milk. They fuss over her and she hates fuss! Her only daughter Carol (Olivia Coleman) comes to help her to put away Denis’ things and then we realize he has gone and Margaret is hallucinating.  Her memory comes and goes. The comparison between who she was as a young woman, played nicely by Alexandra Roach, her rise to power – and it was a rise to power let there be no mistake about it – and the sunset of her life when everyone had forgotten her. Even her son does not come from South Africa when she asks him to be there for the unveiling of her portrait at #10 Downing Street.
Screenwriter Abi Morgan takes us back and forth through Thatcher’s life, from her beginnings as the daughter of a politically informed grocer, through Oxford to her initiation into politics. According to the film, her life of public service would come before her husband and children (twins Carol and Mark).
Because of the nature of the film and its larger-than-life subject, it was not possible to delve into the historical contexts of Thatcher’s iron fisted decisions, especially in regard to the treatment of IRA prisoners.  Alexander Haig (Matthew Marsh) visits Thatcher and condescendingly tries to talk her out of engaging the Argentines over their invasion of the British-held Falkland Islands. I am not a fan of Thatcher but I admit she held her own with Haig.
Thatcher resigns when she loses the trust of her last cabinet member. Her determination that every citizen in Britain, rich or poor, should pay the same amount of tax was too much even for those most loyal to her.
This is a fascinating portrayal of a woman who led an intriguing life that broke Britain’s political glass ceiling with her scorched earth policies. I would have preferred a biopic of Churchill, but then, Meryl Streep couldn’t play him.
Or could she?

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Denis and Companions: This martyr and patron of France is regarded as the first bishop of Paris. His popularity is due to a series of legends, especially those connecting him with the great abbey church of St. Denis in Paris. He was for a time confused with the writer now called Pseudo-Dionysius. 
<p>The best hypothesis contends that Denis was sent to Gaul from Rome in the third century and beheaded in the persecution under Emperor Valerius in 258. </p><p>According to one of the legends, after he was martyred on Montmartre (literally, "mountain of martyrs") in Paris, he carried his head to a village northeast of the city. St. Genevieve built a basilica over his tomb at the beginning of the sixth century.</p> American Catholic Blog The saints share in God’s glory, for they are God’s new creation through Jesus Christ. This new creation radiates God’s glory, for God fills the saints with his grace. He shares his glory, his divine life, with those who are willing to receive it through the work and person of Jesus Christ.

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