The Iron Lady: Over-Sentimental Thatcher Biopic
The Iron Lady is
less of a biopic than an exploration of Thatcher’s legacy and the challenges
she faced as a politician- a female one in particular.
While the film’s structure is executed well and succeeds in being very
coherent, it lays on the schmaltz a bit thick. It takes an aged Thatcher’s
mental state as a starting point and tells most of the story in the form of
flashbacks triggered by old photos, present day situations or conversations
with people- be they real, such as her daughter, or imagined, such as her late
husband. The film is very fluid and it does a great job of not only telling her
story, but dragging us into the mind of a confused woman; one who has a complex
relationship with power, is going senile and is only just beginning to realize
both of these things.
Streep is great which, considering her history, should probably go
without saying., and portrayed Thatchers mannerisms down to a tee. As for the
supporting actors; Broadbent plays Thatcher’s husband Denis and provides most
of the movie’s much needed comic relief while Roach and Lloyd play the couple
in their younger days. While Lloyd is largely inoffensive and doesn’t really
play that big a part, Roach is rather irritating as the young Thatcher and comes
across as a rather unlikeable character.
For such a strong, divisive character, the film seems highly preoccupied
with getting us to sympathize with her. The film focuses on Thatcher in her old
age and we see her slowly succumbing to Alzheimer’s as she holds entire
conversations with her late husband. . The film really highlights the emotional
connection between the two, her method of coping with her grief over his
passing and her bewilderment over losing her power both physically and
politically. It’s pretty heart wrenching stuff and almost has you thinking of
her as your grandmother except that she’s not; she’s Margaret Thatcher- one of
the most inflexible, uncompromising prime ministers to ever rule the UK for
better or worse.
The film is just too sentimental for a political biopic and especially
for one about Thatcher; a famously unsentimental character. She isn’t the cute
and fluffy little old lady that the film seems hell bent on turning her into
and the filmmakers don’t seem to get that that’s ok. In fact, the film focuses
so much on humanising Thatcher that it seems like more of a PR exercise than an
actual movie. Her politics are glossed over in favour of watching her succumb
to Alzheimer’s or suffer from sexist treatment in parliament. And while both of
these points are worthy, they could happen to anyone. The film should have
focused more on a story that was unique only to Thatcher who, like her or
loathe her, was not only Britain’s longest serving prime minister but also its
first and only female one.