The Iron Lady


Recently I saw this movie.

Meryl Streep has delivered an outstanding performance as Lady Margaret Thatcher, no doubt about it.

But the movie itself does no justice either to history or to Lady Thatcher.

Focusing on her late life dementia is no way to start a biographical film on who was (very) arguably the toughest Prime Minister that Great Britain has ever had. Old age issues are common to most people, but showing real-life accomplishments which affected the U.K. as well as the world as flash-backs was not able to deliver the punch that was required in this movie.

The director failed to deliver that punch.

The director, of course, managed to extract a great performance from Meryl Streep, but that came more because Meryl Streep was anyway a great actress, as she had repeatedly proven.

The development of Margaret Thatcher into an astute and tough politician has been given short shrift, except for couple of scenes in which she attends her party meeting. The best scene in that aspect was the way she deals with Denis, her future husband, in clearly establishing that she is going to be a different kind of wife, who will not be just content to be a home maker. She shows her ambition and drive in that well taken scene.

I felt that I was seeing a pretty average movie when I saw “The Iron Lady” – the problem was that my expectations were high because Margaret Thatcher was such an iconic politician, and Meryl Streep was such a highly acclaimed actress. This is the challenge for most “demanding” movies – especially when they depict a great leader who changed the history of a country unequivocally.

There is little dispute over the fact that Lady Thatcher was a controversial politician and a difficult prime minister. The movie goer (an average one) would like to find out more about her character, starting at home and developing over her kitchen cabinet. There is hardly any scene on how she dealt with complex issues on the home front (except the insignificant ones on her son Mark relayed from a video clip that she sees) – how did she manage her tough colleagues and party demands, and how did she deal with her top bureaucrats: all these and more are not answered in “The Iron Lady”.

It is also critical to understand Lady Thatcher’s legacy – her laconic remark at the grocery shop after buying a carton of milk, that things are getting dearer is no way to judge her. She has had a lasting impact on the U.K. and that is well understood by most people – especially the Britons. Whether overall that was a positive or negative one is for them to judge, but I think that her impact and its long-term effects have not been addressed in this movie.

Obviously, the movie has been taken considering that her leadership at a critical time in U.K.’s history was unusual, firm and successful. Where are the outcomes described as beneficial to the citizens of the U.K. ?

All in all, while it is a good movie, it is not really worth watching – I am sure there will be better movies in future when you want to learn about the leadership impact of some of the greatest people who have influenced the course of world history.

Cheers,

Vijay Srinivasan
8th April 2012
Mumbai

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