The Iron Lady
By 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
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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