<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Phyllida Lloyd. Starring Meryl Streep, Jim Broadbent.
A lot of people didn’t like this film, British politicians who knew Maggie Thatcher didn’t even want to watch it, but I’d say this is a well-made film with a powerhouse performance by Meryl Streep and her make-up man.
I hated Phyllida Lloyd’s Mamma Mia!, which also starred Meryl Streep but I was quite awed by The Iron Lady. Not your typical format film, it actually begins with an old Margaret Thatcher (Meryl Streep), senile and stumbling through her house among her memories of days gone by and hallucinations of her beloved husband Dennis (Jim Broadbent).
One of the most powerful leaders, Margaret Thatcher was one of the first female heads of state in the Western World rising from humble beginnings as the daughter of a grocer. But her father instilled in her values and a go-getter attitude that was far from the norm for the women of that era. In the Iron Lady we are transported back to critical moments in Thatcher’s life: the war to retake the Falkland Islands, the union riots and the IRA bombings. In a world of men, this dragon lady of a Prime Minister took some tough decisions – not all were right or popular – and stood by them for the benefit of her country.
J Roy Helland and Mark Coulier, make-up artists on the film won Oscars for their work here. And they should have. So seamless is the make-up that you can barely tell it is artificial (unlike the awful aging prosthetics used in the film J Edgar).
While the film does show Margaret Thatcher dealing with dementia, never does it show her deviate from being that Iron Lady. Right from showing her as a young girl (played by Alexandra Roach) trying to influence politics to her tenure as Prime Minister to her old age, she maintains her principles and her intellect only faltering and forgetting things intermittently. Her husband Dennis is her conscience, her sounding board and her bit of comic relief from the serious times that she lives in.
Before watching this film and commenting on the Oscars (in Oscar Musings and Oscar Review – The mad and the marvellous) I had mentioned that after over 25 years and 17 Academy Award nominations (her last win was in 1982), they just decided to give her the award inspite of Viola Davis (for The Help) being the expected winner. But nay, after watching this performance there is no doubt that she blew the competition away by a landslide. You simply get lost in the character.
I love British humour and so The Iron Lady appealed to me on that level too. It showed me more than My Week With Marilyn exposed about Monroe and it was structured nicely so in spite of the flashback to and fro you never lose track of what’s going on.
Inspiring, brilliantly acted and relatively good as a biopic, The Iron Lady may not tell you the exact true story but it tells you an interesting tale fluidly and dramatically.