Friday, 13 January 2012

The Iron Lady

The other day, my son and I were invited by Xenia Coudrille and Peter Smallwood, a pair of young Conservatives from the Brunel University (and Hillingdon Conservative Future group and their friends. Most of them were barely born when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister and this was going to be a pivotal moment for them - they were going to see a visual representation of the icon of modern British politics. They were going to look at a full-colour, moving-picture of a person admired - and loathed by the generation that raised them.

I went in, sceptical. Sadly for most part, I was right.

The Iron Lady doesn’t do enough to capture any of Thatcher's dynamism. Instead what I saw was a caricature of a frail woman reduced to a schizophrenic has been. I was not impressed by Phyllida Lloyd's voyeuristic emphasis on the fictional rather than the legacy. The account of a delusional woman battling dementia while she hobbles along, living out the remainder of her days is hardly the impression I wanted to my son to get. Less than half the film depicted the Margaret Thatcher that we would like to remember. As Margaret Thatcher would say, "No! No! No!"

The film is interspersed with clips from her past - her origins as a grocer’s daughter, her fight to enter the male-dominated political arena and her rise to national power. Little thought is given to thought processes behind her actions. The labour strikes, the IRA bombings, the Falklands War, the controversial taxes come and go in a confusing stream of flashes - the kind you'd find in a Quentin Tarantino film. Not that there wasn't enough time to bring out the flamboyance of her life and legacy, there was, had the movie not lingered on the so-called 'artistic' aspect of her conversations with an imaginary Denis. I failed also to see the relevance of a scene where she is  leaving in a cab, while her children are screaming for her.

To a generation who doesn't know, the sinking of the Belgrano appears as a shoot-from-the-hip decision with little consideration. I'm not sure that was accurate (although the depiction of her grief at the loss of lives was handled well). There was no background to the major events that defined her premiership. There was little exploration of her ideology, her mindset and what drove her to become the one of the most influential leaders in the modern world.

Having said that, the film is a cinematic delight. Meryl Streep is in her element, bettering what she does best. Beyond the questionable account the film pretends to be, Streep comes out with the performance of dare I say, a lifetime. I'd recommend the film for that reason alone. Alexandra Roach, as the young Margaret Roberts/Thatcher was superb. I just wish there was more of her.

What did shine through though, in spades was that Margaret Thatcher was not afraid. She was not afraid of what people thought, she was not afraid of the people that surrounded her and she was not afraid of being hated. She knew she was right and she knew that someone had to do what needed to be done. She was not afraid that it would have to be her.

You must see this film, if only for its artistic, not factual merits. Here's the official trailer.

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