Phyllida Lloyd’s The Iron Lady presents a portrait of one of the most famous women in the history of the United Kingdom, Margaret Thatcher, their first female Prime Minister. However, it does this in more than one sense of the word. While it does attempt to tell us about her life, the film feels like you are merely looking at an actual painting of the ex-Prime Minister for all the information it presents.
The film begins with Thatcher’s (Meryl Streep) post-political life, showing us that she has not been quite right since her husband, Denis (Jim Broadbent), passed away. In fact, she still sees him quite often and holds conversations with him. Eventually we begin to flashback to how she became involved with politics. Even though she is merely a shopkeeper, she decides to run for parliament. It is during this period that she meets Denis and gets married, eventually winning the position of Education Secretary.
Thatcher sees that there are many problems with the country that she simply cannot fix from her current position, which leads her to run for Prime Minister. Amazingly, she wins, making history as the first woman to hold the office. From here, we witness the hardship of her time as PM by seeing glimpses of some of the events of her terms, with the most focus going to the invasion of the Falkland Islands and the struggle to get them back.
Sadly, The Iron Lady is a missed opportunity to tell an important story. It’s a shame to see Thatcher’s life reduced to a meandering mess of a narrative and montage, and indeed, these were the two biggest problems of the film. From the beginning of the film, you might think they were going to show a little of her life after her time as PM and then go back and tell the whole story, but it ends up wasting far too much time on this section not only here, but throughout the film as it keeps coming back to it.
This wouldn’t be such a bad thing if it was going to fill us in on what she’s done during this period, but alas, we don’t get anything about her except that she’s apparently becoming senile and seeing and conversing with her deceased husband. This was a bizarre choice in structure for the filmmakers to make as it adds nothing to the story, which should be focusing on her rise to power and her time in office.
When we do finally get to see how she rose to power, it is in incredibly brief glimpses. It seems like before you can even blink she’s achieved victory in becoming Education Secretary, and again when she becomes PM. How did she manage to get so much support? What were her stances that attracted the people to vote for her? All of this is glossed over as the film jumps ahead, leaving those who don’t know much of anything about her in the dust.
I myself don’t know much about how she achieved these things or about her time in office, which is why I was really looking forward to seeing the film, but unfortunately there is nothing to be learned here. When it does get to her time as PM, the remainder of the film, when it’s not pointlessly flashing forward, is reduced to a montage of what she did in office. As PM, she believed in action, which she took when the Falkland Islands were invaded by Argentina. Since the film spends the most time on this incident, supposedly they see this as her most important accomplishment. The rest of her accomplishments I suppose you’ll have to learn about elsewhere.
If there’s one good thing to come out of the film, it’s Meryl Streep’s brilliant portrayal of Thatcher. She disappears completely into this character, becoming her, and making us forget that we’re only watching a performance. She even took home her third Oscar for it, which was well-deserved, but it’s just a shame her incredible work couldn’t have been in a film more worthy of it.
The film is presented in a 2.35:1, 1080p transfer that’s crisp and clean throughout. All colors are shown bright and clear and the image is constantly crisp, with strong detail and great contrast. The audio, which is 5.1 DTSHD-MA, is a little softer than the standard quality I’m used to hearing on Blu-Rays. Even when the volume is turned up, some of the dialogue comes off as a little muffled. This doesn’t affect it too much however as most of it can be heard quite clearly.
As for special features, here’s what’s included:
- Making The Iron Lady
- Bonus Featurettes: Recreating the Young Margaret thatcher, Battle in the House of Commons, Costume Design: Pearls and Power Suits, Denis: The Man Behind the Woman
- History Goes to the Cinema: My Week with Marilyn, W.E., Coriolanus, The Iron Lady, The Artist
Sadly, there is not much to these special features at all. The “Making The Iron Lady” is the only one that’s even slightly worth watching, but it hardly even scratches the surface about the making of the film. The most interesting it gets is when the actors give really quick tidbits regarding what they think about their characters. The bonus featurettes are almost entirely taken directly from the “Making The Iron Lady,” making them rather redundant to watch. The only one that’s entirely different is the Costume Design featurette, which offers a little detail about the changes in Thatcher’s wardrobe as the film progresses. The “History Goes to the Cinema” featurette is interesting, but only offers a little bit (3-4 minutes) on each of the films listed, so the most we get time to learn about The Iron Lady is why she was called “The Iron Lady.”
It would have been great to get more about the making of the film. Similarly to My Week with Marilyn, I would have loved to see how the actors prepared for their roles as these iconic figures. Streep’s performance goes beyond an ordinary immitation, making me wonder how she got into the character. She must have done some very extensive research to master the mannerisms. Unfortunately, these special features don’t get into any of that.
This film really could have been something had the filmmakers taken the time to focus on Thatcher’s incredible career instead of wasting time with the uninformative, post-political period. It would have been wonderful to learn all about her and her achievements rather than merely getting a bland overview. There’s a great story to be told about the life of Margaret Thatcher. Unfortunately, this is not it.
While Meryl Streep's performance is brilliant, the film unfortunately reduces the life of the amazing Margaret Thatcher to a montage of events that don't tell us very much about her.