Sunday, 7 July 2013

The Iron Lady (3 Stars)

I'm disappointed, I really am. After all I'd read about this film I expected it to be better. First of all, let's say what's good about the film: the two actresses who play Margaret Thatcher, Alexandra Roach and Meryl Streep, are both outstanding. So what's bad about it? Everything else!

There is hardly anyone more fascinating in recent British history than Margaret Thatcher. She was a girl from a humble background, a shopkeeper's daughter, who grew up to be the first ever female prime minister. A film about her was overdue. This film is so poor that we need a better attempt. I'll name the biggest faults, there are too many for me to name them all.

Too much time is dedicated to showing Margaret in her state of senile dementia in 2010, when the film was made. 20 minutes at the beginning, 10 minutes at the end, and repeated views throughout the rest of the film. A single display of the great lady in her old age at the beginning would have sufficed, no more than 10 minutes. Better still would have been to leave it out altogether.

The film assumes that the viewers already know the history of Margaret Thatcher and what happened when she was in power. I know it, of course, but what about younger viewers or people who aren't from England? The scenes of rioting, bomb blasts and rubbish bags piled in the street must be confusing.

So many of the characters aren't named. The casting department did an excellent job in finding actors who looked like the politicians of the time, such as Michael Heseltine, Michael Foot and Geoffrey Hume, so I recognised them when I saw them, but they aren't named.

A much better way to make the film would be to start with the assumption that the audience knows nothing. Present the young Margaret Thatcher to us. Show us her development through school and university into politics, so that we win a real love for her. Show us her steady advance through parliament and her various jobs in the cabinet, such as education secretary. Show her relationship with Edward Heath. Show the problems that brought down Edward Heath's government, because these were vital in forming her policies when she became prime minister. It wouldn't be too much of a diversion to show the infamous three day week of 1974. The war against Argentina should be shown in more detail, including Michael Foot's opposition to the war. The miners' strikes, the rail strikes, the changes in the laws concerning striking and flying pickets. The poll tax should be explained. Her non-elected political advisers who she trusted more than fellow politicians. Her relationships with Ronald Reagan and Helmut Kohl. There are so many important things that "The Iron Lady" either omitted or showed too briefly.

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