Review: the Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher’s Story; Meryl Streep’s Triumph

Reviewer Rating: ***** Must-See

Margaret Thatcher…few women in the 20th century raised more controversy, more polarizing reactions. In the new movie, The Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher’s extraordinary life and rise to power in particular are vividly and expertly depicted by Oscar-winner Meryl Streep, one of the most lauded actresses in the world.

The film begins in 2008. An elderly Margaret Thatcher struggles to cope with the death of her beloved husband, Denis Thatcher, often seeing and hearing echoes of the man she spent her life with. Small things remind Margaret of the past. The resultant flashbacks depict Margaret’s struggles and joys. You see a young Margaret aspiring to raise above the near poverty of her working class background, her prospects for being little more than a servant highly limited. But burdened with an inner drive for public service, Margaret innovates and runs for office, meeting Denis early in her career. After a few months, Denis proposes and they marry. They start their family, working to raise a twin son and daughter. But Margaret has made it clear that she will not give up her professional goals just because she is now wife and mother. She runs for parliament and wins, becoming the first woman to sit in the House of Commons-as a Conservative, a Tory, no less! As with Queen Elizabeth I, she finds the men around her woefully unwilling to take her seriously, even when she is named to the cabinet, her proposals largely ignored simply because she is a woman. Determined as ever, Margaret stays the course. In time, she decides to run for prime minister-not because she genuinely thinks she can win, but in order to open a dialogue about issues she considers important. Against all odds and with a few image tweaks suggested by her campaign team (such as ditching her hat in favor of the hair style that would become iconic), Margaret wins in her bid to head the Conservative Party and finally the prime ministry itself.

During her prime ministry, Margaret faces enormous pressure by not only her cabinet, but throughout parliament to make decisions against her conscience. Margaret refuses, winning the title “Iron Lady” from the Soviets. Many of her choices are challenged-like her decision to send ships to the Falkland Islands-yet ultimately prove to be sound and wise. Finally, in 1991, she is unable to retain the support of her party and steps down as prime minister after 11 ½ years in that office.

This movie expertly intersperses news footage with acted scenes by Meryl and the film’s five star supporting cast. As a fan of The Tudors, I recognized actor Nick Dunning’s skillful portrayal of one of her advisors while prime minister. Thatcher’s waltz with Ronald Reagan is skillfully included-iconic moments from the 1980s. On a technical level, this movie is as well done as many Oscar contenders for special effects. Meryl Streep so expertly emulates Thatcher that these news clips flow perfectly seamlessly through the movie.

This is also a movie that refreshingly avoided profanity. I do not think I heard a single word throughout the film. The violence is limited both news footage of and portrayals of terrorism from the 1970s and 1980s, much of it by the Irish Republican Army. Terrorism takes a very personal character on Mrs. Thatcher’s own life, an aspect to this woman’s life I think few know about.

In summary, I feel this is one of the best movies I have ever seen. It enlightens to a time and place in history that very few Americans are particularly cognisant about. It shows the inner workings of the British government-which are surprisingly far different from the American system than I think most of us realize. It inspires us with the true stories of one of Britain’s most skilled politicians. Throughout this movie, I found myself remembering the struggles of Elizabeth Tudor throughout her life and how she too had to overcome enormous odds to not only survive to become Elizabeth I, but retain both life and crown throughout her early years as queen especially.

I hope that Mrs. Thatcher would appreciate a comparison with England’s most legendary queen. This story is so rich and so inspirational that I think this is a must see movie-for not just this year, but any student of English history!

Go see it!

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