Margaret Thatcher is a woman I entered (and left) a screening of The Iron Lady knowing little about. Other than a brief note that we will be studying her by my Advanced Placement European History teacher, I had only heard her name mentioned once or twice before. That being said, I expected to leave the theater with an understanding and appreciation for one of the most influential politicians in twentieth century Great Britain. Instead, I left in a shroud of confusion and inquiry about what, exactly, I just watched.
The movie is, essentially, a strange, strange biography. Thatcher (brilliantly portrayed by Meryl Streep, but more on that later) is an aging woman, who may have lost a bit of her mind but still has the strong-willed determination that led her through all those years in politics. As she spends about 48 hours of her life going through daily routines and imagining conversations with her deceased husband Denis (Jim Broadbent), flashbacks of the good, the bad and the ugly float through her unstable mind. The way this occurs, however, offers little to the cinematic quality of the movie (or, better yet, what cinematography?).
The true downfall of this movie is the fact that it doesn’t really show viewers very much about Thatcher. It focuses primarily on her seemingly exaggerated personal life and skims over the juicy policy making details that would have empowered this film. Nothing is concrete; every flashback feels like an overview of a point in Thatcher’s life that is merely being touched on. The flashbacks lack a natural flow and exemplify the flaws in merely briefing the viewer on critical points in Thatcher’s life. Although including back room meetings between Thatcher and her cabinet are interesting to watch and often capture the essence of Thatcher’s political decisions, they cannot save the plot from it’s confounding base.
Regardless of the blah plot, Streep is immaculate as Thatcher. She embraces the role of an aging Brit, rising politician and world leader with steadfast precision that is unparalleled in any of her previous roles. Streep’s performance is almost too good. When she was the aging Thatcher, I thought I was watching an elderly woman. When she was Prime Minister Thatcher, I thought I was watching a hardheaded politician. Although I’m not sure I will ever fully be able to rid the nightmarish image of Streep bouncing on top of her bed in overalls bellowing “Dancing Queen” from my mind, her performance in this film was enough to let me forgive her for going Greek.
The one thing I still do not understand, though, is why even make this movie. The writer (Abi Morgan) could not have been deeply interested in Thatcher’s politics and the ex-prime minister’s personal life was not nearly exciting enough to inspire a full-length film. With only one major character and the Academy Awards coming up, this begs the question that will never have an obvious answer: was the movie really about Margaret Thatcher, or was it about Meryl Streep?
Oracle Rating: 5/10
Natalie Barman / Opinion Editor