Homefront movie
7.25 out of 10
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire movie
8.75 out of 10
Disney's Frozen movie
10.0 out of 10
Delivery Man movie
6.75 out of 10
8.25 out of 10

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Iron Lady

Never Compromising

Rated: PG-13  Brief Nudity and Some Violent Images.
Release Date: December 30, 2011 (limited)
Runtime: 1 hr 47 min

Director: Phyllida Lloyd
Writers: Abi Morgan
Cast: Meryl Streep, Jim Broadbent, Alexandra Roach, Harry Lloyd, Lian Glen

SYNOPSIS: A look at the life of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, from her young life as a grocer's daughter, her rise to power in British Parliament, to her elderly decline.

REVIEW: Mama Mia! director Phyllida Lloyd returns with Meryl Streep to film the biopic of Margaret Thatcher's life. Based on a screenplay from Shame scribe Abi Morgan, Meryl Streep steps in to embody the longest sitting, and only female, British Prime Minister of the 20th Century.

Margaret Thatcher, played by Meryl Streep (Doubt) in mid- to late-life and Alexandra Roach as a young woman, started life as a grocer's daughter with aspirations and intellect that exceeded his mother's expectations, but meet exactly what her father Alfred Roberts (Iain Glen, Resident Evil: Extinction) knew she had in her. Graduating from Oxford, Margaret Roberts impresses the University Graduate Conservative Association and is formally adopted as a Conservative candidate. At a formal dinner she meets young Denis Thatcher (Harry Lloyd, Jane Eyre - 2011). When she unsuccessfully campaigns for the safe Labour seat of Dartford, she still attracted media attention as the youngest and only female candidate. Flash-forward to Margaret's (Meryl Streep) tenure as Secretary of State for Education and Science under Conservative party leader Edward Heath (John Sessions). Later, when James Callaghan's government lost a motion of 'no confidence', Margaret Thatcher becomes the UK's first female Prime Minister, facing great racial tension, economic uncertainty, the Falkland War, disruptive trade unions, and IRA bombings. Both popular and unpopular, Thatcher eventually resigned as Prime Minister and replaced by John Major.

All history lessons aside, Meryl Streep embodies Margaret Thatcher throughout the story. Filmed from her perspective and memories, the elderly Thatcher reflects on her youth and her time in Parliament.  Fraught with visions of her late husband Denis (Jim Broadbent, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1, Part 2), the elderly Thatcher deals with memories and the realization that her aspirations for power overshadowed the attentions of her husband and two children.

The story is solid, but a previous knowledge of Margaret Thatcher's rule as Prime Minister and familiarity of those who served before, during and after her would be helpful. Many of the major names of Parliament are just a series of faces in the background, regardless of how important they may be in UK Parliament history. The story of a young Margaret Roberts who idolized her grocer/local public speaker and unifier, and Margaret Thatcher's career in UK Parliament are varied and dynamic, using real footage during Thatcher's administration to enhance the experience. The story segments of the elderly Thatcher are interesting, but made more interesting by the theatrics of Jim Broadbent's phantom Denis and Margaret's interaction with him to the chagrin of her caretakers. The Iron Lady, unfortunately, does not hold to the period British history lesson standard that The King's Speech gave us last year.

The film sits squarely on Streep's shoulders, and she holds the weight with aplomb and grace. The story, though, is not worthy of the talent she brings to the role. Spending much of the film focusing on the elderly Thatcher somewhat takes away from the importance of her works and achievements during her career. At a meeting with Alexander Haig from the United States during
 the crisis in the Falklands Thatcher states that she fights a war everyday (in answer to the fact that she has no military experience). That answer is the verbalization of what Thatcher dealt with on a daily basis as a woman in an historically conservative man-driven British government. 

The Iron Lady is a film focused on the driven woman who would be the first female Prime Minister in British Parliament history. That feat alone is worthy of a story. Her defense of the Commonwealth during the Falkland War would fill a two hour film. Trying to fill this film with that woman's supposed failures as a mother and wife, her failing mental health in later life, and highlights from her entire career just dilutes the importance of the woman the Soviets christened the Iron Lady.

WORTH: Matinee or Rental

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