Director: Phyllida Lloyd
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Studio: The Weinstein Company, 20th Century Fox, Pathé
For some of us, as far as right wing icons go, British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is right up there with former President Ronald Reagan. She was neither likeable nor sympathetic – unless one feels all warm and cozy toward a world leader known for arrogant abuses of power, war mongering, class warfare, ideological rigidity bordering on mania and fiscal policies that have contributed mightily to current worldwide economic suffering.
The Iron Lady, Thatcher’s highly emotional, wafer thin, often posterior-kissing bio movie directed by Phyllida Lloyd (Mamma Mia!), has one fearsome ace in the hole, though, and that’s Meryl Streep in the central role. The screenplay by Abi Morgan lets Streep loose on Thatcher as an addled, shuffling, self-righteous 80-year-old looking back on her life through the haze of dementia and alcohol.
Streep’s Thatcher, a ramrod who never forgot her upbringing as a greengrocer’s daughter and who admirably challenged barriers for women on many levels, argues with and fusses over her long-dead husband (Jim Broadbent), frustrates her loving, damaged daughter (played wonderfully Olivia Colman) and trips her self-serving way through flashback moments in her life, like her bizarre overreaction that lead to the Falklands War in 1982 and the mass public riots she incited. All the while, though, she grapples with her own mortality and that is where the movie and its star are at their most powerful and persuasive.
Streep can be mannered and overly technical. Here, though, she has it all down; she’s ferocious, relentlessly unapologetic, scarily funny and full of depth and pathos. In a tinny movie with a titanium-clad movie star performance, Streep is titanic.