Wednesday, 11 January 2012
Yesterday I accompanied a friend to the pictures - as we call cinemas in Scotland - to see The Iron Lady. Our visit did not stem from our political leanings but from our admiration of Meryl Streep's acting abilities which were, on this occasion, astounding and certainly deserve an Oscar nomination. I'd say she deserves the Oscar but of course I'm biased.
I admit I've always had a grudging respect for Margaret Thatcher and the reason is that she has been the only woman to break through the glass ceiling of male-dominated politics, but I have tried to be objective in my assessment of the film.
The past week or so I read several professional reviews but none quite prepared me for the film. They covered the political aspect but ignored the underlying story, which is one of a strong, principled woman falling into a few of the traps of ageing.
it is a love story which shows how absolutely crucial to her ability to function in office was her relationship with Denis. His support was vital to her survival. Denis Thatcher, who died in 2003, is a recurring presence in the film, sometimes as a spectral companion, a benign image of hallucination relieving her current loneliness, sometimes as a real-life part of her past. Jim Broadbent's portrayal of Denis is a solid performance, although very little of Denis's inner characteristics are exposed.
The film is set in the present day and introduces the viewer to a an ordinary looking elderly woman who has decided to let go of her dead husband's clothes and is ambushed by select memories of her past. It has strong feminist undertones, which is unsurprising given that it has a female director, writer and star and it cleverly highlights nuances of the British class system in which Thatcher was viewed as an outsider.
Did I enjoy it? I enjoyed witnessing the skills of Meryl Streep, but I found the structure of the film slightly confusing. It drifts from present day to the 70s and 80s and again to the 60s in a stumbling and non-cohesive way. It conveys little detail of her years in No 10, although it touches on some of the main events without detailed explanation.
Some say the making of the film should have been delayed until Margaret Thatcher is dead. I disagree. As well as paying enormous compliment to her strength of belief, it also highlights the loneliness and confusion dementia can create as we grow old. Ageing and its consequences happens to us all yet it is a process largely ignored by our society. Margaret Thatcher can afford to pay for companions, but The Iron Lady shows that money can't buy the love of those you love. To explain, Mark Thatcher is not cast.
Would I recommend it? Only for fans of Meryl Streep. Male politicians will avoid it at all costs. Love her or loathe her, the film must make many past and present male Conservative politicians feel they've 'escaped'. I have no doubt that In the future there will be films made which concentrate on the behaviour of the politicians of that era. By then both Margaret Thatcher and myself will be plant food.