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‘The Iron Lady’: Movie Review (2012)

Movie Review (2012)
“The Iron Lady”
Cast: Meryl Streep, Jim Broadbent, Richard E. Grant
Director: Phyllida Lloyd
Rating: ****

The test of democracy is when a woman has as much right to a position of power as any man. Yet, if you look into the history of the western world, you’ll realise that most aren’t true ‘democracies’. For most of them, including the US, has had no woman ruler. A notable exception, though controversial, is Britain’s Margaret Thatcher.

Thus beyond the politics of that woman, lies the politics of gender against which she rose and captured the world’s imagination. In the same vein, beyond the politics of the film “The Iron Lady” lies a film about ambition, of a woman in a man’s world. And in that respect, this is one tough nut of a film, just like the lady it portrays.

Yet this biopic of Thatcher steers clear of any controversies and instead skims the surface in an attempt to truly show her as the ‘Iron Lady’. It is this attempt that works for the film, but distorts its politics and intention.

There is no denying that Thatcher was every bit of the lady of conviction the film portrays. But conviction itself is not a guarantee of correctness. If it were, we’d be worshipping Hitler, and Bollywood would be sweeping global film awards. In hiding much of Thatcher’s bad politics, which is perhaps the reason why Britain is in such a soup, that the film tries to ameliorate her past.

Yet beyond the film’s covert intentions lies a woman who dominated world politics like few men have done, played by a woman who has dominated the space inside the four walls of a picture frame like few ever have. And therein lies the casting coup of the new millennium.

With 17 Academy Award nomination (three wins) and 26 Golden Globe nominations (eight wins), both more than any man or woman, Meryl Streep is clearly the ‘Iron Lady’ of cinema.

And in portraying the Iron Lady of politics, she exactly shows why she is who she is. The film is indeed a complete Streep show from the beginning to the end.

There are other very good actors, but all of them pale in front of her domineering presence so much so that when you see her on screen, it is as if it is not Thatcher that is on the prowl, but the unstoppable Terminator himself.

On another side, the film also shows the other side of a woman desperate to rise and control everything around. You cannot seek to control so much and not break up in the process. Thus her hallucinations, and moments of dementia are like the price she has had to pay to be an woman with ambitions higher than a man’s in a patriarchal world.

This battle of wits between this lone woman and men around is the high point of the film. It is also captured evocatively in beautiful montages like the one of being the only sandal in an ocean of shoes or being the only blue dress in a sea of black men’s coat, or being seated in the furthest seat from the man in power, et al.

These, and many other deft touches, force you to forget the politics of the film, and focus on the politics that both made and broke the woman being portrayed. And that in itself is a great triumph for any film anywhere.


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One Response to “‘The Iron Lady’: Movie Review (2012)”

  1. Alexa
    March 5, 2012 at 4:37 pm #

    Before viewing, “The Iron Lady”, I didn’t really know much about Margaret Thatcher. Other than she was the prime minister of England for 11 years, she was a very controversial figure and still is to this day. So I was really interested to see the film and I decided to visit the WGA screening.

    Now let me begin by saying, Meryl Streep embodies Margaret Thatcher. She doesn’t just look like her, but she talks like her, her facial expressions are spot on. Meryl Streep becomes Margaret Thatcher. I would be shocked if she doesn’t win an Oscar for this performance. The supporting cast is good too, Jim Broadbent gives an excellent performance, everyone is just great.

    However aside from the top notch acting, the movie had a few flaws. The story was uninteresting at times, the flashback scenes were a bit muddled and a little confusing. The movie felt a little too safe, it tried too hard, not to be controversial. Although I don’t entirely blame the film itself for that. Margaret Thatcher was such a decisive person, that whichever side the film picked, it would be criticized by a lot of people. I guess the film ultimately achieved the goal.

    I also liked the movie didn’t dwell too much on the politics, but on the character of Margaret Thatcher. We see the human side of The Iron Lady herself, beyond all the partisan politics and rumors, we get to see a very personal and sad side of her. The subplot focusing on Thacther’s grief over her husband’s death, as the older version battles with hallucinations and an unwillingness to let go of her dear Denis are heartbreaking.

    Overall the movie was really well done, but just shy of greatness. Meryl Streep’s performance and the supporting cast, truly elevates the film into a great biopic. Although I wished a little more time was spent on focusing on her political life, the movie successfully showed a deep and moving side of the prime minister. Which a lot of biopics fail to do. Whatever your opinions might be on Margaret Thatcher, don’t fault the movie because of the opinion. And I highly respect Phyllida LLoyd, Meryl Streep, Abi Morgan and others for trying to portray such a decisive and highly controversial figure.

    Have a lovely day

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