The Iron Lady (2011)
I was very aware of this film when it was released, reawakening the controversial debate into the legacy of the first woman Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Margaret Thatcher who is believed to have destroyed Britain, bringing it to it’s knees, never really recovering. Whilst others believe she changed it to become a world super-power, helping to end the cold war. Which-ever side you are that’s a debate for another time.
On the face of it The Iron Lady (2011) looks like a biopic of the first woman Prime Minister, as it charts her rise to power through the ranks of the conservative party all the way from being failed candidate to be a councillor, all the way to the top to become the most powerful woman in the world. Quite a feat in anyone’s eyes from starting out as a grocers daughter, it sounds like the stuff Hollywood would eventually turn into a film. In the hands of British filmmakers and an all British cast, bar Meryl Streep in the lead role we see more flashbacks of her life than a review of a career.
Maybe it’s through the flashbacks of a woman with dementia we can see another side of her. For years she was seen as a tough woman who wouldn’t easily by pushed on an issue, something that became her downfall. The media image is one that people of my generation only have, besides those who either champion her or would have spat on her in the streets. Now relinquished of all her political and now mental powers we see a woman who is struggling to hold onto reality.
The flashbacks allow us to see into her view of the past, along with archive footage to create the events that she shaped and influenced. These take up a fracton of the running time, coming in quick bursts to give an overview of her career. Focusing on her present state of mind as she copes with dementia, fighting only the hallucinations of her husband Dennis Thatcher (Jim Broadbent) who is on top form, making her realise what is going on. Whilst in reality she has chosen with the help of her daughter Carol (Olivia Colman) to finally clear out his things (which we don’t know for sure happened). Using this more as a tool to see her more confused and on the edge.
It seems for a wide audience (mainly British) to see Thatcher she has to be in a poor state of mind, as in her final years she became a private person in her failing health. It does gives us an insight into how she maybe in her final years. Played wonderfully by Streep which saw her sweep the board that awards season, able to take on the role from her days in parliament to her eventual decline, shows real skill to her and the make-up which also was honoured. Supported by a strong British cast, which could have been the only route to take with such material, archive footage made up the rest while the film depicted and filled in the blanks. However it’s not an account of her life, an account of her life would be more over-reaching covering more events in greater detail. It’s a media friendly biopic with a gentle touch of reality to show even the great (which is debatable in this case) and once powerful are only human and fragile in the face of old age.
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