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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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Jeanne Jugan: 
		<p>Born in northern France during the French Revolution—a time when congregations of women and men religious were being suppressed by the national government, Jeanne would eventually be highly praised in the French academy for her community's compassionate care of elderly poor people.</p>
		<p>When Jeanne was three and a half years old, her father, a fisherman, was lost at sea. Her widowed mother was hard pressed to raise her eight children (four died young) alone. At the age of 15 or 16, Jeanne became a kitchen maid for a family that not only cared for its own members, but also served poor, elderly people nearby. Ten years later, Jeanne became a nurse at the hospital in Le Rosais. Soon thereafter she joined a third order group founded by St. John Eudes (August 19).</p>
		<p>After six years she became a servant and friend of a woman she met through the third order. They prayed, visited the poor and taught catechism to children. After her friend's death, Jeanne and two other women continued a similar life in the city of Saint-Sevran. In 1839, they brought in their first permanent guest. They began an association, received more members and more guests. Mother Marie of the Cross, as Jeanne was now known, founded six more houses for the elderly by the end of 1849, all staffed by members of her association—the Little Sisters of the Poor. By 1853 the association numbered 500 and had houses as far away as England.</p>
		<p>Abbé Le Pailleur, a chaplain, had prevented Jeanne's reelection as superior in 1843; nine year later, he had her assigned to duties within the congregation, but would not allow her to be recognized as its founder. He was removed from office by the Holy See in 1890. </p>
		<p>By the time Pope Leo XIII gave her final approval to the community's constitutions in 1879, there were 2,400 Little Sisters of the Poor. Jeanne died later that same year, on August 30. Her cause was introduced in Rome in 1970, and she was beatified in 1982 and canonized in 2009. </p>
		<p> </p>
American Catholic Blog The joy of the Lord is our strength. Therefore, each of us will accept a life of poverty in cheerful trust. We will offer cheerful obedience from our inward joy. We will minister to Christ in the distressing disguise of the poor with cheerful devotion. If our work is done with joy, we will have no reason to be unhappy.

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