If you, like me, think Meryl Streep is an incredibly gifted actress, "The Iron Lady" will not disappoint you. But if you have any rational recollection of Margaret Thatcher, well, I can’t recommend you watch this negative, extremely biased production. If you do, get ready for some invented, manipulative drama.
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Most of the film annoyingly examines Demented Thatcher in her later years. Oh, the lingering, gratuitous shots of Streep in her confused wanderings! Why should we gaze inside this (completely fabricated) frail, crazy character? It’s the only way to tear her down. The filmmakers, seemingly confused about her actual, incredible successes, focus on her dementia and femininity while categorically denying her capability.
The grand economic prosperity Britain experienced during her service is covered briefly as flashing newspaper headlines, which strangely look damning from the liberal viewpoint--“Maggie’s Millionaires” and the like (what the liberal philosophy fails to recognize is that when the rich get richer, the poor get richer, too). There is no Reagan, save for a brief hallucination of dancing with him. There is a passing shot of Gorbachev. And the Falklands incident is dealt with as a tragic piece of history that she somehow managed to emerge from well. Predictably, the Armed Service personnel were for a war, while everyone else, including the United States, advised her not to escalate.
In her miasma, Demented Thatcher recollects her past as a series of political triumphs that simply serve to emphasize her failure as a human being. Maggie was reviled by most everyone who came into contact with her, including family and cabinet members. Her husband, (the love of her life), was affectionately civil to her – but only in her hallucinations. In real life he often called her “MT,” a not so veiled reference (by the filmmakers) to her presumed emotional state. How else could a woman break the backs of the unions in Britain but by reckless conceit and a complete absence of sympathy? Through all her accomplishments, her family is not depicted as being proud of her for a moment. Even her own daughter screams that everything is always about Mum’s political aspirations. Her husband leaves for South Africa, and the hallucination later asks how long it took her to notice he was missing. It is an extremely poignant scene when her son calls from South Africa to say he won’t be coming to visit. She seems only mildly fraught by his rejection. She’s the Iron Lady, after all. She must be a cold, heartless b*tch.
This misguided film also asserts that she was a creation of the men around her; she’s only a woman, after all, so there must be some explanation. Reverence for her father’s political viewpoint drives her to serve. When Denis proposes to her, she explains her devotion to public service and vehemently proclaims she won’t die cleaning a teacup in the kitchen sink (It’s almost like a religion to her – disgusting!). When she finally decides she must run, “just to shake things up,” she herself doesn’t actually believe she will win the Prime Minister’s seat. She has two (male) handlers who do. They teach her to talk more like a man and make her change her hair. They also suggest that she lose the double strand of pearls around her neck, which she adamantly refuses, explaining they were a gift from her husband and calling them “the twins.” It’s cute; she confuses an inanimate object (jewelry) with her loved ones. She’s such a girl.
The pretext for the movie is that she finally decides to clean out the late Denis’s closet, prompting her hallucinations of him, and several times throughout the film she fights with him and commands him to leave her alone. But at the end of the film, when her hallucination walks away from her, she is distraught. She breaks down, lost without her man (the one she didn’t notice was gone when he was alive, for those keeping score). Oh, the irony we find when we construct it!
After painting her as a frigid power monger and a pawn of the men who influenced her, the filmmakers then ask us to believe she suffered dementia long before she left office (there was always something wrong with Maggie…).
But then she really wasn’t to blame for what she did, was she? Yet we are encouraged to fault her. It’s the typical liberal conundrum.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the preoccupation the director shows with Maggie’s shoes. There are so many shoe-shots in the film, it’s downright laughable. When she leaves number 10 for the last time, the shot lingers long enough on Streep’s walking feet it made me wonder if there was a shoe fetishist behind the camera. She wasn’t Imelda Marcos, after all.
And the final scene of the movie: Maggie washes out her teacup in the sink. How tragic! Nah-nah-nah-nah-nah! The filmmakers could not resist that final, petty, hate-filled blow.
Because Streep is a consummate professional and not a historian, "The Iron Lady" is almost convincing. But if you know an iota of history, you’ll recognize it as a misogynistic piece of fantasy, concocted to retell the story of one of the greatest women in recent memory from the liberal/progressive/feminist viewpoint. I suppose anything else from Weinstein, Streep, and the “I Hate Maggie” Left Coast would be disappointing.