Movie Review - The Iron Lady

There is a lot of resonance to what was happening in England in the 1980s and what's happening in the United States today, and if you are a Republican, looking for a heroine when it comes to the economic problems of this country, then this is the movie for you. Meryl Streep stars as Margaret Thatcher in a biopic that proves, perhaps not conclusively, that Hollywood is not only about promoting left-wing ideas and people.

Streep is consistently charming and engaging from moment to moment. She is thoroughly convincing as Thatcher, just as she was with Anna Wintour and Julia Child. Streep is the greatest actress alive, but the structure and direction of this movie left me wondering what to care about and what, if any, message I should take away.

The film starts out with present-day Thatcher, a very elderly woman going to the shop to get milk for breakfast. If I hadn't known that Streep was the star here, I might not have guessed that it was her whom was the very elderly woman. Streep is that good of a chameleon, especially with the help from makeup by Marese Langan and J. Roy Helland. I was similarly left in awe during Angels in America when Streep convinced me she was an elderly Jewish man, totally unrecognizable from her iconic personae.

The problem arises when it becomes obvious that Thatcher is suffering from hallucinations. She keeps seeing the image of her dead husband Denis, played by Jim Broadbent. She not only sees him but she talks to him. It gets to a point though where his presence is incessantly annoying. It's almost as if she's Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind and Broadbent is Ed Harris or more apt that Broadbent is the little girl in that 2001 film because Broadbent's behavior throughout is very childlike.

From the first 20 minutes of this movie, it seems as if it's simply going to be about this elderly woman dealing with possible dementia. Then, like Clint Eastwood's J. Edgar, we get flashbacks to Thatcher's younger years. It's then that we're bombarded with all kinds of political stuff, which should resonate with some people. It's funny to see the parallels between then and now. Yet, the question is if Abi Morgan who co-wrote Shame (2011) is trying make the case that Thatcher's conservative policies were a good thing or not.

Immediately, we get a sense that Thatcher who was friends with Ronald Reagan could have been the Sarah Palin or Michele Bachmann of England. She was a conservative woman who wanted to shake up her political party. She was against unions. She was all about cutting government spending and changing the tax code to a flat tax essentially.

Thatcher pulls a Ron Paul move to reduce military spending and presence abroad and it results in the Falklands War. This perhaps tests her metal most of all. From that point forward, it's all about how stubborn she is or how obstinate she is and how that leads to her losing favor. Beyond that, I don't really know what else to say about her.

I suppose the reason Streep and the filmmakers here wanted to make this movie was because Thatcher was the first female Prime Minister of England, one of the very few female world leaders of that time. It was a big deal, which they somewhat play up, but the movie feels too episodic. One thing never really connects with another. It was more like a Thatcher highlight reel than anything else. They maybe tried to make it about her battling the dementia, but it falls very far from the level of A Beautiful Mind.

Two Stars out of Five.
Rated PG-13 for some violent images and brief nudity.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 45 mins.


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