Margaret Roberts was a young woman with a vision for politics. As a member of the conservative party, she saw a chance to maintain traditional values and seek out the longterm success at the risk of alienation from her peers. At the beginning of her career, she met a young man, Denis Thatcher, and eventually sanctified their commitment through marriage. Seeing an issue with the direction and backbone of the conservative party, Margaret determined a need for her to take charge and run for the leader of the party. Successful in her quest to earn the position, she took the next step forward to become the Prime Minister. Always at odds with the rest of Parliament, the conservative party and the general public, Margaret survived as the nation’s political leader for over 11 years. During this time, she battle a struggling economy, international war and human rights issues, earning her a reputation as stalwart proponent of her party’s ideals. Late in life, she struggles with the memories of her time in office and the passing of her husband, whose spirit stays with her during her reflections on her life.
Starring: Meryl Streep/Alexandra Roach (Margaret Thatcher), Jim Broadbent/Harry Lloyd (Denis Thatcher), Susan Brown (June), Iain Glen (Alfred Roberts), Olivia Colman (Carol Thatcher), Amanda Root (Amanda), Michael Cochrane (William), Anthony Head (Geoffrey Howe), Nicholas Farrell (Airey Neave)
Taking center stage in the bio film is the multitalented Meryl Streep. There are two main versions of Margaret Thatcher that she represents in the film: the political icon and the elderly legacy. As the political icon, she maintains all of the strength and stalwartness that Thatcher exhibited in real life. There is a regal presence and strength of character that are undeniable. As the elderly version, she exhibits bouts of dementia but moments of the same sense of strength that helps to tie her character back into the younger version of itself. The young adult version of Margaret Thatcher was played by Alexandra Roach, who represents many of the same qualities but with a slight apprehension that matches her age and her entry into an all man’s club (Parliament). Thatcher’s husband was played by Jim Broadbent, who is a very likable character. There is both a playfulness in his spirit’s interactions with the elderly Thatcher and a sense of pain through the difficulties with his wife’s distance created by politics.
Phyllida Lloyd directed this film to project a sense of the life of Margaret Thatcher, both in office and among family. While the film highlights all of her exploits, leadership and sternness while in office, the story is told as more of a series of flashbacks. As an elderly woman with dementia, she was struggling with believing she was still in office and seeing her deceased husband. Though she appeared lucid at times, her focus on the past caused her to become stoic while remembering the past. Her memories were filled with a number of positive and negative times, but the negative elements brought forth a lot of pain. Even though she strongly believed in her methods and decisions, she had a number of moments of regret with the level of strength she felt was necessary for her to be successful in her role.
While the back and forth storyline could be seen as artistic to some in its use of the flashbacks as a way to organize the story or frustrating to others who believe it feels disorganized, there is no denying the acting ability of Meryl Streep. In addition to to her portrayal of the 1st female Prime Minister, the film team’s makeup artists did a phenomenal job with the representation of aging and ability to use actresses like Streep in multiple age roles while making it look realistic. The casting of Roach was also a good move, although there was significantly less focus on Margaret’s earlier life experiences as opposed to her time in office.
The film is definitely an entertaining look into the life and experiences of Margaret Thatcher, though it may have been better received as a biopic if it was more of a tribute post mortem and did not go up against some of the great films of the past year.
Dan’s Rating: 3.5/5