At the Movies: The Iron Lady

I kinda wanted to see “Contraband” but “Man on a Ledge” was screening at the same time at a theater closer to me, and gas ain’t cheap, so no Mark Wahlberg discussion today. And I wouldn’t go see a Dolly Parton/Queen Latifah church choir musical if it was playing at a theater across the street from me, so — historical biographies for 200, Alex.

The Iron Lady

All I know about Margaret Thatcher I learned from the Elvis Costello song “Tramp The Dirt Down,” which contains the following classic lyrics:

Well I hope I don’t die too soon
I pray the Lord my soul to save
Oh I’ll be a good boy,
I’m trying so hard to behave
Because there’s one thing I know
I’d like to live long enough to savor
That’s when they finally put you in the ground
I’ll stand on your grave and tramp the dirt down
The song actually gets more negative from there. I remember being alive during the 1980s but I didn’t have that big a mad on about the prime minister of England. But then I’m not a Brit.
“The Iron Lady” offers a much more refined — and largely positive — look at the life and times of Margaret Thatcher. It’s a decent film biography helped greatly by another stellar performance by Meryl Streep.

The film opens with an elderly Margaret Thatcher (Streep) living in near-seclusion. Her best friend and companion remains her husband Denis (Jim Broadbent), even though he’s been dead for some time. As is often the case with film biographies, the story bounces back and forth through time, hitting the highs and lows of Thatcher’s life.

Director  Phyllida Lloyd’s approach focuses more on the person than the policymaker. Thatcher is presented as a strong-willed, driven woman willing to put her family second to her ambition and as someone who was always confident that she was always right.

Since you can’t fit a life into two hours a lot of the details are sketchy and a lot gets left out. The film shows some failings but is largely a positive portrayal. It’s historical accuracy I leave to the historians.

As a movie it’s pretty good. It looks and feels true to the time and place. It’s pretty easy to follow even as it races through a complex life. And it features a talented cast, especially Streep in the title role. Much has been said of her ability to seemingly lose herself in a role and this is yet another example of that. Streep is remarkably convincing as Thatcher, whether in her prime or long past it.

And kudos to the makeup department. The folks over at “J. Edgar” could’ve learned a lot from them.


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