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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

The Iron Lady

By
Sr. Rose Pacatte, F.S.P.
Source: AmericanCatholic.org

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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Philip Neri: Philip Neri was a sign of contradiction, combining popularity with piety against the background of a corrupt Rome and a disinterested clergy, the whole post-Renaissance malaise. 
<p>At an early age, he abandoned the chance to become a businessman, moved to Rome from Florence and devoted his life and individuality to God. After three years of philosophy and theology studies, he gave up any thought of ordination. The next 13 years were spent in a vocation unusual at the time—that of a layperson actively engaged in prayer and the apostolate. </p><p>As the Council of Trent (1545-63) was reforming the Church on a doctrinal level, Philip’s appealing personality was winning him friends from all levels of society, from beggars to cardinals. He rapidly gathered around himself a group of laypersons won over by his audacious spirituality. Initially they met as an informal prayer and discussion group, and also served poor people in Rome. </p><p>At the urging of his confessor, he was ordained a priest and soon became an outstanding confessor, gifted with the knack of piercing the pretenses and illusions of others, though always in a charitable manner and often with a joke. He arranged talks, discussions and prayers for his penitents in a room above the church. He sometimes led “excursions” to other churches, often with music and a picnic on the way. </p><p>Some of his followers became priests and lived together in community. This was the beginning of the Oratory, the religious institute he founded. A feature of their life was a daily afternoon service of four informal talks, with vernacular hymns and prayers. Giovanni Palestrina was one of Philip’s followers, and composed music for the services. </p><p>The Oratory was finally approved after suffering through a period of accusations of being an assembly of heretics, where laypersons preached and sang vernacular hymns! (Cardinal Newman founded the first English-speaking house of the Oratory three centuries later.) </p><p>Philip’s advice was sought by many of the prominent figures of his day. He is one of the influential figures of the Counter-Reformation, mainly for converting to personal holiness many of the influential people within the Church itself. His characteristic virtues were humility and gaiety.</p> American Catholic Blog When we suffer, we don’t just come to understand the pain of Christ’s cross more, we come to understand the depth of God’s love for us: that he would endure such pain for us—in our place. We have a God who endured death so we would never have to do so.

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