I finally watched the Meryl Streep vehicle, The Iron Lady, the other day. Streep won a well-deserved Academy Award for her performance as British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, a controversial figure in that country’s history.
If you haven’t seen the film, you’ll probably be surprised by it, as I was. I expected it to be a quick and politically-charged motivational movie, following in the same vein as most political biographies. I expected it to be the sort of movie that beat viewers over the head with the message that WOMEN CAN DO ANYTHING.
And to some extent, the movie was all of those things. We are treated to a motivational montage of Thatcher’s political rise, as well as flashing through the difficulties that she faced a female politician at all levels of the political office. She brilliantly tells her to-be husband, Dennis, that she will not stay at home and wash teacups after they get married.
But more than anything else, the movie delves into Thatcher’s current psyche. The former Prime Minister is still alive—she is 87—but, according to the movie, is struggling with bouts of dementia. Throughout the movie, Thatcher sees her dead husband, and speaks to him. She continuously tells herself that she is not going mad. This aspect of the movie is well done, but strange in that the private Thatcher seems as though she wouldn’t want her deteriorating mind depicted in such a way in a movie.
The relationship between Thatcher and her husband Dennis (Jim Broadbent) particularly humanizing the woman who had to be a tough and often too-unyielding politician. Certainly, too, are the flashbacks and delusions of the couple’s relationship which seems to have been less of a partnership than Dennis would have wanted, based on Thatcher’s career ambitions. The ambiguous ending—did Thatcher wish that she hadn’t had such political ambition and had instead paid more attention to her family?—is particularly difficult to understand.
Streep, of course, was brilliant as Thatcher. Amazingly, the actress managed to hide herself within her character—she won the Oscar because viewers forgot that they were watching Streep onscreen, but rather were watching Thatcher herself. Occasionally, touches of Streep’s other noted Brit character, Julia Child, peeked in, but most of the time, Thatcher completely consumed the actress. A performance like this makes us wonder why it’s been so many years since Streep’s last Oscar win.
Have you seen The Iron Lady? Did you think Streep deserved the Academy Award for her portrayal?