Tuesday 17 January 2012

Today's Review: The Iron Lady

I'm not a man who loves Politics. Sure, I studied Politics at A Level, but I gave that crap up as fast as I could (still got an A though, swish). But still, biographical epic style movies are all the rage these days after The King's Speech made everyone cream themselves. Surely one about Margaret Thatcher is worth a try?

The Iron Lady basically chronicles Thatcher's life from gutsy young student to Prime Minister, told through a series of flashbacks. The time from when these flashbacks take place is indeed the present, where we are presented with a frail Thatcher suffering from dementia and attempting to get rid of her late husband's belongings in an attempt to stop her hallucinating about him. Meryl Streep plays the lead role, and her performance is indeed quite outstanding. In the present day scenes you can clearly see her thoughts drift elsewhere, and her emotional reactions to her hallucinations and old things she finds around the home are wonderful. Even as a young Thatcher, Streep gives it her all, taking on the voice and image perfectly.

Several people have stirred up controversy in the way that this movie is portraying Thatcher's illness while she is still very much alive. In fact, it is quite insensitive, especially as Thatcher's own children have spoken out against it. While it is known that Thatcher suffers from dementia, the full extent is probably not as clear, and the key symptoms portrayed in the movie might not even be happening, especially as in the case of the hallucinations, which are there simply to advance the plot.

But still, I am reviewing how good the movie is, not how offended I may have been by it. But the movie itself isn't too great either. There seem to be large chunks missing from the story. At one point Thatcher is the educational secretary, the next minute she's running for the head of the party, and the minute after that she's Prime Minister. There must have been something worth filming there, but instead it's all rather hurriedly skipped over like it doesn't really matter. The whole narrative in fact does seem a little forced, it's very segmented, and relies heavily on cues from the present day scenes. I know there is a large time span to portray here, but the movie could easily have been longer and added in some scenes from the past to tie the events together.

The Iron Lady is extremely pro-Thatcher too. The dementia angle certainly drums up sympathy from the audience, but there's no real attempt to portray the bad side of Thatcher at all. It's shown that her family feel she spends too much time working, but no shit, she's Prime Minister. She's shown to be a bully, but then is immediately shown being bullied out of her job. The scenes focus mainly on her, and the overall tone of the movie seems to portray her as some kind of hero who fixed the entire country against all odds. The opening scene shows Thatcher walking to a newsagent owned by an Indian, with loud Indian music blasting from unseen speakers, and Thatcher has to step round a large black man to leave. Gawd, what has Britain come to, with all these immigrants selling us milk and queuing up behind us? Things were better in the 80s. Oh no they weren't, they were crap.

Still, The Iron Lady is still quite a good movie. Without Streep it would probably be a whole lot worse, but everyone else puts in a good effort in their roles too. The set pieces and costumes are wonderfully done, it's just a shame that the script isn't really up to the task.

My rating: 3/5

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