Movie Review: The Iron Lady
The Charlotte Observer
From the moment her name and the subject of her next film were announced, you knew Meryl Streep’s performance as/impersonation of Margaret Thatcher had Oscar written all over it. And true to form, the Academy might as well emboss her name on the statuette now.
It’s an uncanny turn by the screen’s greatest actress, an acting job with towering bombast and marvelous subtlety. She nailed the look, the tone, the speech patterns, the little snap of the head of the imperious British prime minister. Bloody brilliant.
What’s stunning about “The Iron Lady” is what a good film surrounds her performance. Phyllida Lloyd, Streep’s “Mamma Mia!” director, cast this to perfection, putting Streep toe to toe with the A-list of British character players, from Jim Broadbent (as Thatcher’s husband, Denis) to Richard E. Grant, Roger Allam and Anthony Head as her political confidantes.
Lloyd finesses a deft script of brisk, quick strokes by Abi Morgan (“Brick Lane,” “Shame“) into a terrific entertainment, and a film that both celebrates and to a far lesser degree criticizes a woman who inspired a generation of conservatives, at home and in America, to refuse to compromise, to turn every debate into a battle over “principles.”
Morgan’s quick-stroke telling of the story amounts to Maggie’s Greatest Hits – her first political victory, her standing up to the establishment in her own party, her party’s victory in 1979, and the riots, IRA bombings and hard times that greeted it. We see Thatcher at war over the Falklands and bathing in the glory of the end of the Cold War.
Streep’s performance of a dismissive line such as “People don’t think anymore, they feel,” will have even the most dyed-in-the-wool liberal questioning core beliefs.
But it’s not a political speech that will matter at the end of the day. It’s an Oscar acceptance one, and Streep, so very good every time she steps before the camera, had better start polishing hers now. They’re already polishing her Oscar.