For lefty movie reviewers already bitter that Margaret Thatcher even existed – and especially bitter because her three terms as Britain’s prime minister utterly repudiated their most sacred beliefs – the new Thatcher biography The Iron Lady offers them a chance for some quality ankle biting. Of course, this living legend will survive both the film and the wailing of these liberal pipsqueaks. The problem is that we still can’t be sure whether we ought to see it or not.
The arrival of a serious film about a serious conservative presents liberal reviewers with a quandary. When the film trashes the conservative, that’s great – the slander in and of itself is good for at least a star on its own, and if the boom mikes aren’t looming in the frame and the actors don’t forget their lines you’re guaranteed at least a three star review if only in the name of socialist solidarity.
But if the movie, as some say happened here, refuses to take a position on its subject, then there’s a problem for the liberal reviewer. As we shall see, they tend to handle it by simply inserting their own limousine liberal insights into the review. Somewhere, sometime, someone must have lied to them and told them that the world gives a damn about the political views of guys whose job it is to discourse upon movies that feature singing chipmunks, space robots and/or Ashton Kutcher.
No one is really sure about what might happen in the third theoretically possible situation. It will be interesting to see how liberal reviewers respond if Hollywood ever makes a major movie biography about a prominent conservative that views him or her in a positive light.
The reviews for “The Iron Lady” are mixed, with Rotten Tomatoes giving it a 55 percent score by the critics. Not surprisingly, the critics are having a tough time sticking to the substance. Many of them just can’t resist taking a whack at her – as if she had not spent her career being hit harder by better.
Roger Ebert, a reflexive leftist whose pinko opinions usually saturate his movie reviews, wrote a thoughtful review here. He objected not to the opinion the film held of its subject, but that the producers seemed too timid to offer any opinion at all:
Was she a monster? A heroine? The movie has no opinion. She was a fact. You leave the movie having witnessed it. Whatever your feelings were about Thatcher were before you saw it, you now have some images to accompany it.
Love him or hate him, that’s some sharp writing. If true, it represents a valid criticism and is the kind of keen insight one looks to a reviewer to express. But, of course, Ebert could not resist a long digression into lefty/peacenik silliness over Thatcher’s steadiness in the face of Argentine aggression in the Falklands which then morphs into a lament for her heartlessness:
Thatcher held office for an unprecedented three terms, bitterly divided Great Britain, and led her nation during the Falklands War, which seemed to be largely an exercise in hubris on both sides. Before the war (and now), no one frankly gave a damn about the Falkland Islands, and Thatcher’s foreign policy amounted to: “They’re ours and you bloody well can’t have them.” For this brave troops on both sides were killed, and those who cared to could deceive themselves that there was one small spot of foreign soil that, as far as Thatcher was concerned, would be forever British. (Footnote: The British didn’t consider it foreign.)
Of course, Argentina started the war by invading the Falklands, over which it had disputed Britain’s claim since 1833. You can’t say they didn’t wait long enough before taking action. And if Argentina mounted a military invasion, what could Thatcher do? She was compelled to defend the islands. The loved ones on either side who lost someone in that war must have been hard-pressed to understand why death was useful or necessary.
That wasn’t Thatcher’s concern. In a striking scene that takes place in her increasingly senile old age, she declares that ideas are more important to her than feelings. That seems to have been a governing principle in her life, allowing her to look with apparently limited concern at unemployment, hunger and homelessness on the domestic front.
Ebert’s feelings about British policy of the 1980s really aren’t the issue – we just want to know if “The Iron Lady” is any good. But like all liberals, Ebert seems to think we’re dying for his insights on politics when the important question is whether we should drop $40 for seats and popcorn to watch this flick.
Lesser reviewers likewise join in the Thatcher-bashing. You’ll be shocked to learn that Karina Longworth of the Village Voice resented Thatcher not being presented with horns and a pointy tail. Variety accepts the unexamined premises of the community it serves, showing why it is Hollywood’s own Pravda when reviewer Leslie Felperin fumes that “[m]uch is made of how Thatcher broke through the glass ceilings of gender and class on a personal level; rather less is said about how her policies disadvantaged the poor.”
While it’s no shock that Slate’s Dana Stevens thinks that it was Thatcher’s “policies of economic deregulation and union-busting that dismantled Britain’s social safety net,” I expect that British subjects taxed into poverty to support the bloated behemoth of cradle-to-grave socialism on that sinking island would be shocked to hear about this alleged “dismantling.”
Cole Smithey (“The Smartest Film Critic in the World”) sugarcoats it by labeling Thatcher one “of the Right’s most reprehensible examples of absolute power corrupting absolutely,” raising the important questions, “Who is Cole Smithey, and why should I give a rat’s ass what some hipster doofus with a website and a subscription to The Nation thinks?”
He also asserts that “Thatcher contributed to the world’s current economic collapse with a cunning brand of daring cruelty that defies logic and reason,” forgetting that the lefty Labor Party had some small part in running Britain after Thatcher stepped down in 1990. I particularly enjoyed his characterization of how “Thatcher’s heavy-handed military response in the Falklands rightly paints her as a warmonger.”
He seems to have forgotten that Argentina invaded the Falklands, not vice versa, but then he seems to have grown up in an age where wussy school administrators suspend both the kid who starts the fight and the one who fights back. Smithey opines that “[h]istory will not be kind to Margaret Thatcher,” a threat I would find more chilling if Smithey’s comments betrayed any familiarity with history.
With all the hyperventilating about the subject of the film, it’s hard to get a straight answer to the only question we really want to hear these critics answer – should we pay to see the movie? We still don’t really know.