Just got back from seeing an early show of The Iron Lady with a conservative friend. Both of us agreed that the film lacked a political agenda and indeed largely put Margaret Thatcher’s conservatism in a positive light.
The problem of the film was not its politics, but its storytelling. It seemed more an exercise in acting than a appreciation for a strong woman. The filmmakers didn’t put that most successful prime minister into the context of her times nor seem to have any notion of narrative structure. Indeed, the story of this great Briton’s life was lost in the framing device, that of an old woman experiencing mild dementia.
The frame overwhelmed the picture. Director Phyllida Lloyd just spent too much time on two or three days in the life of a declining octogenarian–more than half the movie (or so it seemed). The details of Mrs. Thatcher’s biography, played as if mere episodes from her memory, with few placed into a context which helped explain her times, her rise and her accomplishments.
All that said, Meryl Streep was brilliant in the title role. At times, it seemed we were watching vintage clips of the Iron Lady herself. And you did believe she was a doddering old woman. Good acting, certainly, but true to Mrs. Thatcher’s actual state? Unlikely.
The rest of the cast was uneven. Jim Broadbent was fine for the aged Denis Thatcher who appeared in hallucinations of a befuddled old lady, but he didn’t appear any younger in the scenes set during his wife’s turn as Prime Minster. That said, Harry Lloyd who played Denis in his younger years was first rate — and indeed looked a lot like a silent star with a similar name–Harold Lloyd (but imdb has him as a descendant of Charles Dickens and not the acrobatic thespian).
The movie is well worth your time if you want to see the full range of Streep’s talent, but will provide little help in understanding the greatness of the most successful post-war British Prime Minister.