Iron Lady (1/10)
by Tony Medley
Run time 105
OK for children.
This is an
execution by experienced assassins. If you want to learn about Margaret
Thatcher, the first female Prime Minister in British history and the
longest-sitting PM of the 20th-Century, this film produced by The
Weinstein Company (herein "Weinstein"), starring Meryl Streep, directed
by Phyllida Lloyd, and written by Abi Morgan (who said, "I remember at
university in 1990 there was dancing in the street when she left power,
so I knew her legacy and that she was someone who was hated"), is not
the film to see. The point of the film seems to be to establish that
she's a seriously flawed woman of mental deficiency.
establishes the fact that Mrs. Thatcher (Streep) is suffering from
dementia. There are constant flashbacks and flashforwards to her as an
elderly woman communicating with her dead husband and her children when
they are little, always reminding us that she's mentally deficient. The
first, which flashes back to her "courtship" with husband Denis (Jim
Broadbent), shows her as an unpopular, unsophisticated, inexperienced
wimp. Nothing could be further from the truth.
belittles or ignores everything she accomplished. Among the things it
neglects to mention are the following. She took second honors in earning
a degree in Chemistry at Oxford, where she was President of the Oxford
University Conservative Association. After graduating she worked as a
research chemist at various companies. After marrying Denis, she
qualified as a barrister and specialized in taxation. She was hardly the
naive, clumsy simpleton this film pictures.
It shows nothing
of her first campaign. On the day of her first election to the House of
Commons, instead of celebrating it as a great victory, it shows her
abandoning her small children who don't want her to go, which makes her
appear uncaring, selfish, and ambitious.
she's a front-bencher, the Education Secretary in Prime Minister Edward
Heath's (John Sessions) cabinet. How did that happen? Weinstein is as
silent about how she advanced in Parliament as he is about how she got
elected. Of course, to explain that would force him to have her appear
competent and courageous, which probably explains why he left it out.
phony British accent makes the film appear a characterization, more like
"Julia Childs impersonates Margaret Thatcher," than a factual biopic of
this remarkable woman. Bette Davis didn't adopt a phony British accent
when she played Queen Elizabeth in Essex and Elizabeth (1939).
Nor did Errol Flynn in the same film as Essex, and he was Australian; he
wouldn't have had to phony it up. Gene Kelly didn't affect a phony
French accent when he played D'artagnan in The Three Musketeers
(1948). Actors needn't turn into a Rich Little impressionist when
playing actual characters from history. Phony accents detract from the
quality of the film, although that's not a problem here because this
film is so deplorable it has no quality from which to detract.
How in the world
did Mrs. Thatcher rise from a backbencher to become Prime Minister?
After innumerable flashbacks and flash forwards of little or no
substance, after 49 minutes suddenly she's Prime Minister! How did that
happen? How did she win over the party regulars? How did she rise in
Parliament? On this Weinstein and Streep are silent, but they certainly
emphasize that she developed dementia as the constant flashforwards
constantly remind us. The person portrayed by Streep in this film could
never have accomplished what Margaret Thatcher accomplished.
Fully 75% of this
film shows Thatcher with dementia. It should more appropriately have
been entitled Thatcher with Dementia, because that's all it's
about. In the few scenes of her as Prime Minister, it shows her to be
enormously unpopular and always fighting everyone. This seems totally
inconsistent with the fact that she was the longest sitting Prime
Minister of the 20th-Century. How could that be if she were as unpopular
as Weinstein paints her here? With one exception, the film doesn't show
her making big decisions or shaping policy or public opinion. It simply
shows her giving occasional speeches. But the film always flashes
forward to remind us that she is, after all, of feeble mind.
The one specific political issue with which Weinstein deals is the
sinking of the Argentinean light cruiser Belgrano during the Falklands
War. Because this movie is such a fiction that it couldn't even use the
disclaimer "based on fact," Weinstein allows the viewer to believe that
because the Belgrano was steaming away there was no reason to sink her,
and buys into the left's allegation that Mrs. Thatcher was a war
criminal for this order. This is dead wrong, and Weinstein should know
it. The Belgrano had orders to attack. It wasn't "sailing away." It was
merely redeploying for its attack. But it doesn't matter in which
direction it was sailing. It was in a zone where the British had warned
that any ship in the zone would be sunk, regardless of in which
direction it was sailing. (If you're interested in the truth of the
matter, see the article in the "Daily Mail:" Britain WAS right to
sink the Belgrano: Newly released intelligence proves the Argentine ship
had been ordered to attack our Task Force:
Weinstein paints it as a very difficult decision, but her
Minister of Defense, Sir John Nott, later observed: "It was one of the
easiest decisions of the whole war."
For this great woman who opened the door wide for women in British
politics, who was the first female Prime Minister in British history,
who paved the way for the Reagan Era and the end of the Cold War, this
film is a cruel disgrace and the people who made it should be ashamed of
themselves, but there's fat chance of that. History is not made by those
who do the acts; it's made by those who tell the tale. Streep does a
fine job of destroying Mrs. Thatcher's reputation, so she is undoubtedly
proud of her part in this despicable defamation. Given the political
slant in Hollywood, there's little doubt that there's an OscarŽ
nomination in store for her as her reward. In a world that honors the
truth, however, a RazzieŠ would be a more appropriate award for her and