Sunday, January 15, 2012

THE IRON LADY (2011)

Written by Abi Morgan


Directed  by Phyllida Lloyd


Where & When: Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood, CA. January 9, 2012 5:15PM 


It would be completely redundant to once again state what a great actress Meryl Streep is but the fact is that in her latest film, "The Iron Lady", in which she plays Margaret Thatcher, the first female British Prime Minister, she has gone well beyond expectations by delivering a mesmerizing performance that effectively embodies the spirit of this controversial figure. After all these many years of fine work in cinema, it is still truly pleasurable to witness her amazing gift as an actress.

When we first see Thatcher, it has been many years after she's left office and now suffering from the early stages of senility. A staff is assigned to watch after her, to keep her safe and out of the public glare. Mrs. Thatcher manages to have moments of clarity but then she is soon lost in a hazy fog of confusion. Her husband, Denis (Jim Broadbent) has past away a few years ago but Margaret still sees him quite clearly, having discussions, disagreements and reliving moments from their past.

She first drifts back to where she came from; a working-class family in Grantham where her father, Alfred Roberts owned a grocery shop, in which Margaret worked as a young woman (Alexandra Roach). He was politically active and that certainly influenced his daughter's core beliefs. After she graduated from Oxford (with a Bachelor's degree in chemistry), she met Denis Thatcher (the younger version is played by Harry Lloyd) who became smitten by Miss Roberts and soon were married but only after Margaret made it perfectly understood that she would never be a traditional housewife.

She meant what she said and despite having two young children, Margaret aggressively campaigned until she became elected as a member of Parliament as part of the Conservative Party in 1959. During this time, Thatcher carefully prepares for her next challenge as she is groomed, taught how to properly use her voice to command authority and twenty years later, Margaret Thatcher would become Prime Minister of Britain.

So begins the era of "Thatcherism" where her strong conservative policies on nationalism, economics and labor as well as her uncompromising approach to achieving her political goals took hold of the country which was parallel to what was happening in America with Ronald Reagan as President. We see some key highlights during her time in office which include going to war with Argentina over the Falkland Islands, her near brush with death by the hands of the IRA at the bombing of the Brighton Hotel and being challenged for leadership of the Conservative Party which ultimately lead to her resignation as Prime Minister in 1990.

Ms Lloyd began her career in the theater with her feature debut being the hugely successful adaption of the musical, "Mamma Mia" (that also starred Streep), has crafted a seemingly fair and balanced portrayal of the British leader but how accurate will largely depend on which side of the political spectrum you stand on. The "Thatcher" depicted is a passionate, no-nonsense woman who will not allow anything to stand in the way of her goals or ambition which included, most notably, her family. Although "The Iron Lady" does attempt to humanize the woman but offers no real opinion of her. It simply just presents the facts and surmises possible motivations for many of her actions.

The film is aided by a strong script by Ms Morgan (who is responsible for another fine screenplay of a film also currently out in theaters, "Shame") which cleverly uses Mrs Thatcher's current declining health as a basis for her struggling to remember her past but it still ultimately ends up like many biopics focusing on the mistakes and regrets of her life while rattling off a short list of some of her major accomplishments.

Since I am an U. S. citizen, I don't have a strong reaction either way of Mrs. Thatcher (unlike my opinion of her evil American counterpart, President Reagan) but regardless of your opinion, "The Iron lady" is still a fascinating, unbiased look at this polarizing figure who was both admired and reviled while, in many ways, changed the course of her country for better and for worse.