As a die-hard Meryl Streep fan, I sincerely wanted to love “The Iron Lady” as much as I adore nearly every film she has starred in. Unfortunately, a somewhat memorable performance was not enough to make up for the completely forgettable film.
The biographical British film, directed by Phyllida Lloyd, begins with a peek into the life of an aged Margaret Thatcher (Meryl Streep), the longest serving Prime Minister of the UK in the 20th century. Thatcher is buying milk, and walks home alone. It is revealed that she was supposed to have been supervised at all times, and her mental health is deteriorating. Over the course of several days we see her grapple with dementia and the frustrations of not having control over her life. Thatcher is comforted and occasionally haunted by visions of her deceased husband, Dennis Thatcher (Jim Broadbent).
The film also portrays Thatcher’s earlier years, with a younger Margaret played by Alexandra Roach. We see her working in her father’s grocery store, where she supposedly formed the conservative values that would permeate into political policies later in her career. She is accepted at Oxford, and aspires to a career in politics. Because she is a woman, she must struggle to break into the male-dominated Tory party for a seat in the House of Commons. A main theme of the movie is developed at this point—power comes with a price. Thatcher is constantly putting her relationships and loved ones below her political aspirations.
The film is largely a blur of non-sequitur, sloppy montages of Thatcher’s rise to power that do little to challenge any one’s preconceived notions of her as a person. The movie is cookie-cutter at best, and those looking for an insightful docu-drama will be left completely unsatisfied. The film’s attempt to humanize Thatcher was ultimately a failure. Viewers fail to empathize with her on any level. The filmmakers attempt to provide a balanced approach to Thatcher as a politician, exploring both her strengths and successes and the detrimental impact her staunch conservative policies brought unto the lives of the British public.
Meryl Streep by no means fails at the role, but she fails to shine to her usual extent. Going into the film, I expected her performance to remain strong even if the rest of the movie was a failure. Unfortunately, Streep was quite bland. Jim Broadbent portrayal of Thatcher’s deceased husband was probably the most captivating performance of the film.
Ultimately, the film leaves the viewer feeling overwhelmingly indifferent. There was little reason for it to be made, and despite several moderate quality performances, is utterly missable.