In previews, The Iron Lady surely looked Best Picture bound. A biopic about Margaret Thatcher starring Meryl Streep seemed like a shoo-in. However, between some odd editing choices and perhaps too much focus on Thatcher’s dementia in her old age the whole film became a bit muddled. Many will place the blame on director Phyllida Lloyd, her only other film that was released to theaters was Mamma Mia!, also starring Streep. But if you ask me, going from a happy Abba inspired musical to Thatcher biopic is extremely gutsy and to pull it off as well as she did is an accomplishment.
However, I’d like to focus on the greatest thing about The Iron Lady, Meryl Streep’s performance. After nearly twenty years with twelve other Oscar nominations, never another win since Sophie’s Choice, this role finally brought Streep her third Oscar. It was quite a surprise, with most critics betting on her always a bridesmaid, never the bride status and predicting Viola Davis would come out on top. After seeing this film, I have to agree with the Academy, Streeps performance was amazing and well deserved the award.
Streep portrays Thatcher through most of her political career and into her old age. In the present, we see Margaret shuffling about her home, remembering her past and suffering from dementia. The worst part is that she realizes her mind is going. She regularly imagines her late husband around, talking to her, carrying on conversations and bringing up memories of their life together. Her present is a bit sad when we think about the game changing, strong and powerful world leader she once was.
In flashbacks, we gets a sense of Thatcher’s struggles and political rise. For a while, it seems that being a woman is a handicap Thatcher must work to overcome. A scene where a vocal coach teaches her to naturally lower her voice feels like it could have been inspired by similar scenes in The King’s Speech. Over the years, she seems to transform from strong willed British housewife to the tough as nails woman, making difficult decisions for her country without batting an eyelash.
In one scene, Thatcher is preparing for an occasion of some sort and has a seamstress sewing on a button at the last minute, right over her bosom leaving it much more exposed than usual. While that is being taken care of, she carries on an argument with two of her political advisers. She never misses a beat, stays particularly strong and stands her ground with confidence. The whole time, it’s as if she were a man having a button sewn on his jacket having this conversation. She doesn’t show one bit of female frailty or shy away in such an awkward position and I think that makes her one hell of a powerful lady.
“We will stand on principle… or we will not stand at all.”