What I Saw: The Iron Lady
When you are as divisive a historical figure as Margaret Thatcher, it is no surprise that a film about your life will be met with equally mixed responses.
Historical biopics have fallen out of favor with many of the younger generations, while conservative supporters of Thatcher aren’t going to be happy unless the film portrays her as a saint.
For me, a pure political accounting of Thatcher’s rule would have felt abhorrent to my liberal sensibilities, and so I was thankful that the film chose instead to explore the challenges of breaking into the old boy’s club, and used the tropes of losing one’s spouse and reflecting back upon one’s life to give the story a universal appeal. Her allies may worry that the film made her look weak, but for me it humanized her decisions and helped to explain the fears that informed her policies.
Meryl Streep was superb as we’ve come to expect, and I thoroughly enjoyed the humor that Jim Broadbent brought to the role of Denis Thatcher (a portrayal that grows on you and pays off fully in the final scenes of the film.) The film explores the discipline and perfectionism that underdogs often feel they have to live up to in order to make it, as well as the dreadful consequences of insisting upon that ethic once one has become the overlord.
If the real-life Meryl Streep were more like Margaret Thatcher, she may well have won an additional Oscar by now, but she probably would have received fewer nominations. Streep graciously acknowledges her fellow actresses, and appears to make a point of using her success to highlight the work of others and make their path easier. Thatcher’s motto would have been “I’ve worked hard, and you should too”, and she certainly wouldn’t be listing other actress’ achievements in her precursor acceptance speeches, or even showing up for the SAG awards, being a labor guild and all. Thatcher would have been hard-nosed enough to secure wins, but people would have hated her for it, and certainly not nominated her as often or over as many years.
In this year’s race, I am currently predicting that Meryl Streep will narrowly come in second to her good friend Viola Davis, but that the film will win over Harry Potter for the excellent makeup work done by Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland.
As always, check the Tracker Pages in the upper right hand corner of this blog for the most updated predictions in all categories!
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