The Iron Lady (2011)

3 STARS

General Information:

Information below is taken from the following link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1007029/

  105 min  –  Drama | Biography   –  6 January 2012 (UK)

Director

Phyllida Lloyd

Writer

Abi Morgan

Stars

Meryl Streep; Jim Broadbent; Richard E. Grant

Plot:

Biopic about the life of one of the most controversial MPs in British Politics. The film follows the rise and fall of Margaret Thatcher (aka ‘The Iron Lady’) through a series of flashbacks.

Review:

Margaret Thatcher (Meryl Streep) is the marmite of British politics: she divided the nation, the conservative party, and clearly this film itself. With Margaret Thatcher, you either love her or hate her. Yet, this film doesn’t know which option to choose. I imagine this is a marketing decision as the producers didn’t want to aim this at just for Tories, or just at Lib-dems or at lunatics (aka: the British National Party). If this was a marketing decision, The Iron Lady manufactures this decision by being  personal film about Margaret Thatcher rather than a political film.

Its establishing shot proves my point well: Maggie (who at this point is now suffering from a form of senile dementia) is buying a pint of milk – we see her as an ordinary woman, a woman who has faced the odds of life, yet is suffering at the end of it; a woman who is battling the negative side of aging and is utterly embittered with negative feelings and emotions.

Again, this is shown throughout the entire structure of the film: Thatcher is putting her deceased husband’s (Jim Broadbent) clothes and has flashbacks about her growing up as a girl to her becoming and being prime minister of Great Britain whilst doing this. As the film progresses, we see that the older Margaret Thatcher experiences vivid hallucinations of her husband Dennis. Perhaps some audience members will sympathise with her, whilst others will think that it’s a cheap gimmick to develop her character. I thought the latter.

Either way, there is a fundamental problem with this film: the politics is somewhat ‘skim-read’. There are sections in this film, which basically attempts to ‘fill the gaps’ of her life rather than explore each avenue and scurry through the nooks and crannies of endless possibilities in the political story that potentially could have been told.

There is one whole section which literally just skims through TV footage of miner-strikes, poll tax, IRA bombings with no interest in the political subject-matter at all. It hops around from one to the other, without looking at it in depth. Nothing is explained. Why does this happen? What motivated Margaret Thatcher to be blunt about her politics and sharp with conservative opinions? We don’t know. The footage is simply used as a a cowardly ‘plot-device’ to add to the story, as if the director, Lloyd, just threw it in for the sake of it.

There is nothing wrong with a political bio-pic that doesn’t pick a political side. A biopic – or indeed any film – doesn’t have to have certain views, it doesn’t have to be right-wing, left-wing or liberal. Yet, if it doesn’t do that, it at least must pose questions, it at least must make us question our own political beliefs. And in the case of this film, it must at least make us go home, questioning and pondering our views about The Iron Lady herself.

All in all, The Iron Lady is a film which delves far too much on the personal side of Margaret Thatcher rather than her controversial politics, which is a shame to audiences, after all, isn’t the main attraction to a film about Margaret Thatcher about her opinion-dividing politics themselves?

Verdict:

Perhaps it’s a film that’s about death, coming of age or feminism; but at the end of the day it’s a bio-pic about a political leader, yet it isn’t remotely political in the slightest. Oh well, the acting was good.

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