Daily News header

The Iron Lady Review: Thatcher, Screen Portrait Or Movie Prop?

By     get stories by email

While biopics about the departed tend to be fraught with bias according to how the filmmakers feel about their chosen human subjects, a balanced view of those still alive is compromised to an even greater degree. And resulting in films tainted with a conscious reticence stemming from potential lawsuits of the displeased parties in question themselves.

Which leads to the peculiar enigma of the Margaret Thatcher biopic, The Iron Lady. An inquiry into the decade long reign of the first and only British female head of state in the 1980's - and for that matter the first woman ever to head a world power. And a film that has succeeded in antagonizing both liberals who have denounced her, and her own arch conservative supporters who feel this portrait in her declining years is disrespectfully weak - and a debate occasionally akin to a bar room brawl. While at the same time even embraced by each opposing side as evidence of their respective warring points of view.

And while some may interpret this as evidence of a balanced perspective in the movie, the reality is that the film has elicited such criticisms by saying practically nothing at all. A seemingly quite calculating strategy on the part of director Phyllida Lloyd and screenwriter Abi Morgan. (And there is a male co-screenwriter, Michael Hirst, but nobody ever talks about him because part of this strategy is to peddle The Iron Lady as a feminist tract, but more about that later).

And the dramatic devices in The Iron Lady that diminish political controversy are quite blatant. First, a universally appealing movie star is chosen to play Thatcher, namely Meryl Streep. Rather than say, a Brit who might have really voraciously sunk her teeth into the role, like Judi Dench. Who is currently so ferocious in Clint Eastwood's J.Edgar as Hoover's tyrannical mom, that she comes off as more intimidating than he is.

Then there's the time period chosen by the filmmakers to burrow into Thatcher's life. It's the present, when the former prime minister is a virtual invalid in a progressively deteriorating state of advanced senility. So her political life is then softened and blurred through the prism of confusion and memory loss. Which is quite a shrewd move on the part of the filmmakers - don't blame us for historical discrepancies, blame the victim.

And somewhere between Hollywood's usual 'have your cake and eat it too' approach as a financially based bid to appeal to every potential audience member in sight - and Thatcher's own hardline 'let them eat cake' draconian budget cuts in an assault on unions and the poorest sectors of the population - is a misleading ploy. That is, to peddle the movie as a feminist production. Which has elicited the quite ironic statement about the movie by Thatcher press secretary Bernard Ingham, that 'there must be something wrong with it if it's converting all these lefty women to the view that she was something rather good.'

And so Thatcher is portrayed on screen as virtually showing up out of nowhere in Parliament for no compelling personal reason in particular, and instantly whipping all those male wimp politicians into line. When actually in a case of the other way around, and not unlike Sarah Palin, Thatcher was groomed and manipulated to project a dishonest female empowering public image. The better to snatch the women's vote away from the liberal Labour Party, and ensure Tory conservative victory.

Not that this deliberate confusion surrounding The Iron Lady and Thatcher hasn't already spilled over into public discourse some time ago. Take for instance, the label 'Daughters of Thatcher' championed by conservative leaning women. And for whom Thatcher as inspiration held out hope for successful future lives, even as her massive privatization has led to a financial tailspin into the economic crisis currently in progress.

On the other hand, there are those women referring to themselves as 'Thatcher's Girls.' A British term coined in the 1980s, when Thatcher's policies led to widespread unemployment. And a resulting upsurge in those who became prostitutes, and defiantly claimed that designation.

The Weinstein Company
Rated PG-13
1 1/2 stars

Prairie Miller is a NY multimedia journalist online, in print and on radio, and on WBAI/Pacifica National Radio Network's Arts Express. Read more reviews by Prairie Miller. Contact her through NewsBlaze.

  Please click this get stories by email button to be notified about future stories, and please leave a comment below.

  Please leave a comment here     If it does not display within 10 seconds, please refresh the page

Related Movie Reviews News

Movie reviewer Kam Williams unfolds his take of Big Muddy, an intriguing neo noir marking the impressive directorial debut of Jefferson Moneo.
Movie reviewer Kam Williams shares movies opening January 23, 2015 with NewsBlaze readers around the world. As the Chinese new year is fast approaching, it is exciting to jumpstart with the latest and must-see movies opening this Friday!
Movie reviewer Kam Williams shares his full list of nominations for 2015 Academy Awards with NewsBlaze readers around the globe.
Don't miss the hottest movies in DVD this week that will surely make your day stress-free!
Here, he talks about directing the new nighttime soap opera Empire, co-starring Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson.
Tara can currently be caught performing with Atlanta-based theatre company Dad's Garage, where she also teaches improv to people of all ages. Previously, she worked with The Second City troupe, and was a company member of the L.A.-based improv compa


NewsBlaze Writers Of The Month

Popular Stories This Month

newsletter logo

landing page ad

Copyright © 2004-2014 NewsBlaze Pty. Ltd.
Use of this website is subject to our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy  | DMCA Notice               Press Room   |    Visit NewsBlaze Mobile Site