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Hell hath no fury?

Submitted by on February 19, 2012 – 4:59 pmNo Comment

By Swinefingers
Whilst Meryl Streep is rightly in receipt of plaudits for her portrayal of Thatcher, complemented by a consummate performance by Jim Broadbent as Denis Thatcher – which, if accurate, confirms Private Eye’s suggestion that he was not much more than a gibbering buffoon – The Iron Lady is a film wherein many contradictions lie.

It is these contradictions, coupled with a curious absence of plot, that linger long after the titles roll.

It may be so that the disjointed script and chronological disorder of scenes are intentional: perhaps signifying the fug of the dementia that Thatcher now resides within.

Director, Phyllida Lloyd (Mamma Mia!), has been quoted as saying “[We] were trying to tell a more universal story about the cost of a big life — the cost of a career — on oneself, family, colleagues”. Admirable by Shakespearian standards but even his tragedies depicted the protagonist warts and all. And that is, I believe, where this film falls flat.

One needn’t approach this film from a cynical left-wing polemic view-point (which, I hasten to add, as a self-confessed ‘wishy-washy liberal’, I was at pains not to do) to credibly suggest that certain topics are, at best fleetingly visited; or, at worst, fall prey to sheer revisionism.

For example, we see Thatcher defending the concept of the family but condemning thousands of miners’ families to despair.

We see the matriarch Thatcher talking of ‘our boys’ as she doggedly commits to the ‘defence’ of some rocks off the coast of Argentina; sinking the Belgrano whilst it was outside the exclusion zone and executing some Argentine ‘boys’ in the process.

On the same topic, we see Thatcher refer to 1982 Argentina as a ‘fascist junta dictatorship’, yet the film conveniently ignores that a similar regime in the shape of Augusto Pinochet was lovingly embraced by Thatcher who later ‘ regularly enjoyed tea’ with the dictator responsible for overthrowing a democratically elected government and torturing and murdering thousands of people.

And the IRA? Terrorists, of course. But we are then treated to montages of Thatcher dancing with Nelson Mandela, whom she famously labelled a ‘convicted terrorist’. One person’s freedom fighter, another person’s terrorist, eh?

In one scene, when she is Prime Minister, much is made of her knowing the price of butter – an example of how she is ‘in touch’ with everyday reality. Juxtapose this supposed empathy with the everyday reality of people losing jobs en masse and, for many, their real sense of identity.

Flitting between different parts of Thatcher’s life, we are also led to believe that Thatcher is some kind of role model for women; a woman who not only took on male boardroom culture but also conquered it on the international stage.

Yet it was clearly Thatcher who was subjugated by the very gender that she went on to ape: taking lessons to lower her voice and belligerent in her behaviour until it ultimately cost her the position she thought was hers as divine right.

The whole purpose of this production appears to be an exercise in sentimentality. And, to be fair, there is substantial effort expended in presenting Thatcher as a lonely, confused elderly lady deserving of our sympathy as she careers from one reminiscence to another, always haunted by trusty, ghostly, Denis who passed some years ago.

In conclusion, and on a personal level, I would challenge anyone to observe the agony Thatcher encounters as she is unable to escape the memories of her past – and the claustrophobic confusion of her present – to walk away from this film without a brief smile of satisfaction at this ambassador of misery’s fate. If such a person does exist, they must surely possess a heart of, shall we say, iron?

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