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The Iron Lady: Meryl Streep Wins Rave Reviews, Film Itself Mixed

Posted on the 15 November 2011 by Periscope @periscopepost

The Iron Lady: Meryl Streep wins rave reviews, film itself mixed

Meryl Streep as The Iron Lady. Photo credit: Pathe

Baroness Margaret Thatcher will likely never see The Iron Lady, the biopic about her life starring Meryl Streep as the titular Iron Lady, and written by Sex Trafficwriter Abi Morgan, directed by Phyllida Lloyd CBE (Mamma Mia) and produced by Damian Jones (The History BoysAdulthood). But much of Britain might, anyway – not the least because the film is already courting controversy, with some close to Thatcher claiming that Streep is “cashing in” on the former Prime Minister’s life, and with her children reportedly “appalled” at the sound of the “left-wing fantasy” plot. Already, some Conservative types are declaring the film required viewing: Declared Cristina Odone, blogger for Conservative paper The Daily Telegraph, “Today’s politicians should draw inspiration from this portrait of a leader with guts who transformed a country struggling with a deep economic crisis, angry protests, and autocratic unions.”

The film opens with an elderly Thatcher, in her 80s, sliding into dementia and forced to clear out the possessions of her husband, dead some eight years. Personal belongings and items from her life trigger memories and Thatcher’s life is revealed in flashbacks: Thatcher as a teen in her father’s grocery store, her budding political passion, becoming Britain’s first female prime minister, surviving the Falklands War, the miners’ strike, poll tax riots, before her leadership’s ultimate collapse. Jim Broadbent plays her husband, Denis, and a whole host of British acting talent fills out the rest of the roles.

Reviewers got a first look at the film, due to be released in the UK on January 6, 2012 and the verdict is, well, mixed – though Streep is earning plaudits hand over manicured fist.

Flawed, but genuine. David Gritten, reviewing for The Daily Telegraph, brushed aside two of the main concerns that has dogged the film from its inception: That it would be a “hatchet job” on the former Prime Minister and that Meryl Streep, an American, could never embody the sheer Englishness of Thatcher. “Streep is splendid, giving a detailed, authoritative performance that goes way beyond accurate impersonation to evoke Thatcher’s spirit,” he cheered. But Streep’s impressive performance, he added, “rather overshadows the film itself”, which probably won’t find favour with the current Coalition (Thatcher coolly dismisses coalitions with a line in the film), trade unions, or Argentina.

Thatcher without Thatcherism. In The Iron Lady, “there’s little sense of the outside world, the human cost, or the ripple effect of divisive government policies. It is a movie that gives us Thatcher without Thatcherism,” opined The Guardian’s reviewer Xan Brooks. It’s a “breezy, whistle-stop tour through the unstable nitroglycerin of Thatcher’s life and times”, imbued with a tone that is “jaunty and affectionate, a blend of Yes Minister and The King’s Speech”. But Streep “is the one great weapon of this often silly and suspect picture”, who embodies Thatcher, basilisk stare and all.

Streep is stunning. Baz Bamigboye, reviewing for The Daily Mail, was overflowing with praise for Streep’s portrayal of “greatest Prime Minister since Churchill” and in no way concerned about the film’s glossing over some of the more difficult aspects of her premiership. “[O]nly an actress of Streep’s stature could possibly capture Thatcher’s essence and bring it to the screen. It’s a performance of towering proportions that sets a new benchmark for acting, a searing interpretation that looks at the big forces that shaped Mrs T’s life,” he cheered. “Interestingly, some Left-leaning people might think it glorifies her. At the screening I attended, I sat next to a woman who, once upon a time, canvassed against Thatcher, yet by the end of the film she was so touched she was in tears.”

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