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Wednesday, January 4, 2012
Love her or loathe her or even know nothing of her The Iron Lady is a striking film about a tough politician.
This movie by Phyllida Lloyd has been controversial from the word go, a bit like the star Margaret Thatcher.
Her loyal supporters have objected to its portrayal of the elderly woman who was Britain’s first - and to date only woman Prime Minister.
Detractors however may feel that in showing her weakness in old age the movie offers too sympathetic a portrait.
In fact in many ways it seems cruel with Abi Morgan’s screenplay showing the disintegration of a woman who fought off her opponents and rose to the top, despite what were presented as obstacles - her gender and her origins as a grocer’s daughter from Grantham.
However Meryl Streep’s Thatcher is a triumph, an uncanny likeness from the helmet of sugar spun hair to the voice - low in tone and changed through coaching so the politician would appeal to the voters and not appear to be hectoring them as they were offered the medicine of painful cuts.
If Streep does not win an Oscar for this role - a third - then there must be a truly remarkable performance to rival this tour de force.
Maggie dominates the movie, as she did the political landscape during a period which included some of the uglier times of the later twentieth century - the miners strike, IRA atrocities including the attempt to kill Thatcher in a bomb attack at the Grand Hotel in Brighton, and the Falklands War.
But her story begins before that and we see a determined young Margaret played by Alexandra Roach as she takes her first tentative steps to a political career as she wins over the selection committee in Dartford, but fails to take the seat, landing herself a husband instead, a young Denis played by Harry Lloyd.
The part of the older Denis is taken by Jim Broadbent, as the dependable husband but also critic who was by her side during some of the best and worst of times.
The Dickens allusion in this year marking the author’s bicentenary makes the viewer think of Miss Havisham, stranded amongst the remains of her glory as she imagines that the now dead Denis is still with her.
Her daughter Carol Thatcher is played by Olivia Colman who is showing herself a serious actor of some depth, having moved on from her comic roles in Peep Show and the like.
And what of Thatcher’s rivals and opponents? Michael Pennington is the Labour leader Michael Foot who attempts to berate her for the economic woes the country was experiencing and Richard E Grant impresses as the Tory contender for the throne Michael Heseltine. But it is Anthony Head as Geoffrey Howe who plays a pivotal role, after warning the Prime Minister that she should not test the loyalty of her ministers she learns to rue the day she ignored the warning.
The Iron Lady certificate 12A opens on Friday (January 6).