The Iron Lady
Release Date: December 26, 2011
Meryl Streep has enraptured audiences with her portrayals of a tortured Jewish mother, a desperate Dutch farmer, a famous American cook and everything in between. But will her charm and skill be able to conquer one of Britain’s most hated politicians?
Streep stars in The Iron Lady, one of a number of big box office releases this Boxing Day, as Margaret Thatcher, Britain’s first female prime minister. This is not a dry political biopic but an emotional examination of the price she paid for attaining power. Spanning three decades of social turbulence, the film covers Thatcher’s rise to power and her polarising policies that eventually brought the British trade unions to their knees, and aided the collapse of the Soviet Union. But the central concern is more personal than political.
Director Phyllida Lloyd promises to provide viewers with an insight into her family struggles in much the same way The Queen introduced us to the real Betty Windsor. Roger Allam plays Gordon Reece, the public relations man credited with giving Thatcher her political makeover. However the counterweight to the political drama rests with Oscar winner Jim Broadbent as her supportive husband Dennis. Broadbent reveals the tension within the Thatcher household as his wife undergoes her transformation into a formidable leader. “Gentlemen, let us join the ladies,” she tells a room full of Englishmen at dinner, marking the point where she has become more man than woman. But many of the rungs to success are supplied by subtle family sacrifices. Often presented as a mild house-dad by the media, Dennis rages behind closed doors,
Dennis: “Are you saying you want to be Prime Minster?”
Margaret: “It is my duty and my – ”
Dennis: “It’s ambition that’s got you this far, ambition! And the rest of us – me, the children – we can all go to hell!”
Just seeing one of the world’s most loved actresses take on one of its most loathed personalities is bound to be enough to sell reams of tickets. But the decision to view Thatcher’s world-changing leadership through the frame of her personal life says much about how we’ve come to view the political realm. Frost/Nixon and Thirteen Days were similar decisions to see people before policies, as if they were the real truth. Ideology has died and been replaced by the triumphant individual. Spiritually that amounts to a world where there is no absolute right and wrong, but only as much good as one man or woman can achieve.