Two of the most captivating actors of our time have given us insight into the intimate lives of two firm politicians this year. Months ago, Leonardo DiCaprio made yet another strong impact with his method acting as J. Edgar Hoover in “J. Edgar.” Recently, Meryl Streep won her eighth Golden Globe award for her role as the infamous Margaret Thatcher in Phyllida Lloyd’s “The Iron Lady.”
We await the cold, iron enigma, but instead witness a frail Thatcher being usurped by the hustle and bustle of modern England. A softer version of the Iron Lady, a graying Thatcher (Meryl Streep) shuffles around, confused; she looks up to the buildings above like a child would.
This opening scene offers us an image of how Thatcher adjusts to her elder years, alone in her era’s traditions based on the value of thoughts and actions, rather than the modern era’s commitment to feelings. Even her husband, Denis Thatcher (Jim Broadbent), seems to only be a mere hallucination that she keeps in order to feel connected to her “right and honorable” role as England’s prime minister from 1979 to 1990.
The film doesn’t surprise as much after the raw opening scene, and Thatcher’s younger years are portrayed consistent with public knowledge. The monotonous flashback routine makes it tedious to watch history replay itself.
Between flashbacks to her climb against the male grain as young Margaret Roberts (Alexandra Roach), an older Thatcher is shown paying the price for her resilient and cold nature as prime minister by struggling with her hallucinations and accepting her isolation.
After seeing “J. Edgar,” I expected another sympathetic view of the personal struggles Thatcher faced in rising to and falling from power. What I got instead from Abi Morgan’s intimate account is more of a nearly finished biography, lacking in clarity toward the end of Thatcher’s years.
Lloyd creates a thread of doubt that flows through the stages of Thatcher’s life, granting the audience a feeling of support for Thatcher. With close-ups on each blustering adversary she faced, Lloyd captures the irrationality of the men Thatcher rises up against, leading us to hope for Thatcher’s victory over them. Lloyd’s zoomed-in angles highlight the whispers around every corner that follow her from her youth, into her elder years, so the audience feels sympathy for the shockingly fragile Iron Lady.
Although the audience is drawn into the movie by this tone of empathy toward Thatcher, it is Meryl Streep’s honest and raw performance as Thatcher in all her pride and isolation that gives the movie its small sense of entertainment value. Most of us will choose to see this film for the acting, and the audience will leave wanting for nothing when it comes to Streep’s performance.
Thanks to Lloyd’s direction and Streep’s diverse skills, we are given the chance to see this unwavering machine as a noble yet fragile woman.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5