Today see’s the end of an era for British people. She was decisive, some would say cruel, unfeeling and many much darker expressions of ill feeling. Others would say that she was a necessary reformer, who helped shape the political landscape for generations and even spreading her influence around the world, playing her part in ending The Cold War.
But today is her funeral and I feel that the following two articles may have something to say about Margaret Thatcher from a the perspective of a man who was just seven months old when she took power and was 12 when she was forced to admit defeat after being ousted by her cabinet colleagues in 1990.
Both from this blog, the first was an article from January 2012 when the film The Iron Lady was first released and the second is the actual review from this January when I finally saw the film.
A COMMENT OF THE IRON LADY
10th January 2012
Meryl Streep’s latest Oscar bid, sorry, Biopic, The Iron Lady arrived in U.K. cinema’s last Friday. Although I have yet to see this film I still, as many will in the U.K., have a strong opinion about this subject.
I was born just eight months before Margret Thatcher, “The Grocer’s Daughter”, “The Iron Lady” came to power in 1979. My family was neither rich nor poor but the impact on us all throughout this era of Thatcherism was profound and though my father was not a Miner, a rail worker or a poll tax protester, he and my mother suffered financially throughout the 1980′s.
It wasn’t ALL her fault, nor entirely her government but she certainly polarised opinion in this small country and you literally love or hate her. She is accused or raping the industries of this country, privatising the national Utilities, destroying the Mining industry and creating the boom and bust greed of the Yuppy era.
Even now, the mention of her name in many quarters is likely to start an argument even 20 years after her ousting, she is still so reviled. But I presume that many people feel somewhat different, certainly in the upper class heartlands which she served so well. Some were with her from the beginning, some look back with favourable hindsight and many are just too young to see past the revisionist history offered up by the establishment.
Thatcher’s strengths are just that. She was strong-willed and had a series of ethos’ that made her a great leader. Her loyalty to Great Britain was undoubted and proven by her Falkland campaign, and her attitudes to I.R.A. but it takes more than nationalist foreign policies to make a great leader. For over a decade she made the rich richer and poor poorer and though this has happened under many governments, Thatcher did this so very well at the expense of others, destroying many communities in the process.
So, when all is said and done, I can understand why the Oscar hungry Meryl Streep would covet this part. I’m sure that the details of her domestic policies haven’t travelled across the Atlantic as clearly as her Special Relationship with Ronald Reagan, or her victory over the Argentinians. In the same way that we know very little of the U.S.A’s domestic problems.
But this is the truth as perceived by many people in Great Britain and besides all this I would love to see a film about her, a fair and even-handed account of her rise to power, and use or abuse of such power and her eventual downfall. I don’t want to see a hatchet job, but lets face it, there’s very little chance of that!
But as the reviews trickle in, it appears that we’re going to get a film focusing on her characters, of sorts and smudging over the more controversial topics. Whether this is true, I will have to find out when I see the film but I doubt that this is the film that I was hoping for and will in fact be the film that I was expecting.
An establishment propaganda film, maintaining the myth of the strong and sometime unpopular leader, but magnificent woman in a man’s world as a vehicle to place good ole’ Meryl Streep on the Academy’s nominations list.
I hope against hope that I’m pleasantly surprised…
THE IRON LADY
14th January 2013
DIRECTOR: Phyllida Lloyd
NOT A PART OF OUR COLLECTION
May Contain Spoilers!
Will we be adding this to our collection? NO
I first touched upon this film a year ago, commenting on the subject of one of Great Britain’s most controversial Prime Ministers. There’s no doubt that Thatcher (Meryl Streep) was a landmark politician, the first female Prime Minister and one of the strongest leaders of the 20th century. But she was also reviled by millions as her business acumen that she brought to the job, promoted capitalism above some of the basic socialist tropes.
This film clearly re-enforces this, as she clearly believes that people should strive to be better and she would reward those with money who made more money, at the cost of those unable to do so, who simply wanted to go to work for a living. Rising to power in the late 70′s, when general strikes in public services lead to power cuts and rubbish piled up on the streets as the Unions exercised, possibly to their and our detriments, their powers to strike, Thatcher was resolved to bring the country back to its previous heights.
The film seems to suggest that she did, but what it fails to acknowledge is that she propagated a boom and bust financial culture, which may have made profit at the expense of denationalisation of public services but it was unsustainable in the 1990′s leading to recession. But this is a whimsical film, choosing to tell its story through the fictional ramblings of an aged woman, who cannot get over her grief at the loss of her husband, Dennis (Jim Broadbent).
But he is only a fun and interesting character in her delusions as when we see his as a living man, he is just meek and moody. But with implied dementia plotline is fictional and takes up over half of the screen time. The real events of her life are not so well covered. The idea seems to be to humanise her through this old woman who is looking back at her life from a vulnerable position but is this because there would be little sympathy garnered from the true story of her political career?
Presented is a rather fractured story. We look at the Brighton bomb, which is summed up with line of dialogue here and there, her hotel room windows being blown through and the couple sitting in a police car in the aftermath. The was no recreation of her speech the next day, “This lady is not for turning”, a real statement as to what this Iron Lady was made of whether we like her or not.
Whilst speaking to the U.S. Ambassador about the Falklands, he puts it to her that she has no experience of war, in which she replied that she “has been fighting all her life”, but there was no evidence of this besides some flashes during a montage of her early career, in which she is clearly entering a Man’s world.
There was also one of the film’s more shocking moments in which her Northern Ireland Minister (Nicholas Farrell) was the victim of an IRA car bomb, but again, this was treated like a footnote rather than a life affecting event. The politics of the 1980′s was summed in a series of themed montages and some clever but overly arty editing. But Meryl Streep excelled as Margaret Thatcher, encapsulating the woman in ways that you cannot quantify, but the make-up helps too.
Overall, this film seemed to be muddled. The fictitious wrap-around story of the old and maybe mentally infirm Lady Thatcher was clearly there to allow for flashbacks and to give us a relatable and sympathetic character, but the flashbacks are rubbish. Too short and concise, to the point at the expense of the point. This could have been an opportunity to demonstrate the life of times of ‘Maggie‘ as she changed the country and effectively played a pivotal role in ending The Cold War, but it was squandered.
Geoffrey Howe (Anthony Head) was her most loyal ally and when he betrayed her, this should have been a pivotal and emotional moment but it wasn’t. Head was perfect as Howe, but their long relationship was summed up in about three scenes and it was only because I had some small meta knowledge of the Howe/Thatcher story that I knew what the hell was going on!
The narrative and direction was poor, with the film bolstered and held up by some cracking performances and the promise of something historically interesting but that’s it. It delivers little else and almost relegates what should have been the point of the film, to show what made The Iron Lady just that and a view, objective or bias on what she did, whist in office. Even the Falklands was relegated to a five-minute semi-montage!
But its fails to take a strong stance. It’s unclear whether Phyllida Lloyd likes Thatcher or not, but I suspect that the contrivance of the wrap-around story suggest that she does. But the film on the other hand is much more confused.
Maybe British politics just isn’t that interesting filmatically, but Thatcher’s reign certainly left its scares on our country. At least this film didn’t turn her into heroin. Strong and uncompromising she may have been but a hero, she was not.