7 August 2013

Politic-A-Thon: The Iron Lady Review

Most of the films I've done for this series have been ones I really like, so I think it's time for me to do a film I hate. Anyone who knows me knows that I think the worst thing to happen in British politics was the period when Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister. Under her, the unions lost their power and the incredible advancements made by Clement Atlee's government with the welfare state and nationalisation of industry were gutted and led to millions being rendered unemployed and entire communities in the North decimated. It also didn't help that she openly supported General Pinochet whilst denying support for Nelson Mandela and was one of the people who supported a cover-up after Hillsborough. But I digress, it's not my hatred of Thatcher that makes me hate this film, it's that it doesn't do anything interesting to discuss Thatcher and her legacy.
Now the plot of the film concerns the political life of Margaret Thatcher and her rise to become the leader of the Conservative Party and the Prime Minister of the UK. Now that could make a really interesting film but it's actually the films sub-plot, the actual focus of the film is on Thatcher in the modern day, stricken with dementia and seeing visions of her dead husband. This again could make an interesting film on its own, showing how Thatcher no longer feels the fallout over what she did due to her not remembering it. The problem is trying to make both these films at the same time. As a result, the stuff in the modern day is not as powerful as it could have been and the stuff about Thatcher's political past is glossed over. All the stuff over the miner's strikes, the poll tax riots, Thatcher's relationship with Ronald Reagan and the Winter of Discontent is covered in a series of brief montages with the only time the film stays on a subject longer than 2 minutes being the Falklands War. All of these elements, if explored properly, could make full films but with the lack of time given to these elements, the film really lacks any depth. This is the main reason why I hate The Iron Lady so much, all the squandered potential that the film had and how it could have been a much better film if it knew what to focus on.

There is one element that I do admire about the film though, Meryl Streep is excellent as Thatcher. Her voice in the film is a perfect recreation of Thatcher, you can see the contempt that she has for the left wing present throughout most of the film, she perfectly portrays the dementia ridden aspect of Thatcher in the modern day scenes and she works brilliantly with all the other cast members, especially Jim Broadbent who has the most broadly comedic role in the film which doesn't really work for me in the broader context of the film. The rest of the cast though is wasted. There are a lot of people in here that I really like such as Olivia Colman, Anthony Head, Iain Glen, John Sessions, Richard E Grant and Roger Allam, but you never really notice that they're in the film, which is astonishing considering how recognisable all these people are and how distinctive their voices are. This is especially bad considering that they are playing all of the major figures in both Thatcher's political and personal life but we never feel like they have any effect on Thatcher's views.

Overall, The Iron Lady is a complete mess. Aside from an excellent performance by Meryl Streep the film does everything it could do in regards to Thatcher completely wrong and to someone who doesn't like Thatcher, seeing this film effectively demonise all those who disagreed with Thatcher for legitimate reasons feels a bit uncomfortable. Definitely a film to skip.

My Rating: 1/5

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