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 dementure 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 a 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.