In spite of Judy’s judicious warning, I was never going to miss the film so along we went last night but was prepared for anything. And it does seem that the film tried to be the hatchet job Judy described. And I wouldn’t have ventured into a review of my own except that as it happens, Steve Hayward at Powerline has just tonight posted an interview from The New York Times that gives the game away so far as the actual intent that underlies the film. Here is the passage that matters. It is Meryl Streep speaking:
What interested me was the part of someone who does monstrous things maybe, or misguided things. Where do they come from? How do those formulations begin, how do they solidify, calcify, become deficits? How do a person’s strengths become weaknesses?
“Monstrous things” was it? Because what the film does is remind you of all those monstrous things Margaret Thatcher did every one of which making the world a better place. One would have to be at least fifty to have any serious recollection of that moment when she took office in 1979. The Winter of Discontent. The industrial chaos. The miners’s strikes. The War in the Falklands. And of course, the Cold War itself which she along with Ronald Reagan and the Polish Pope brought to a peaceful end through an unbending moral crusade against political evil.
But strangely, the one part I had forgotten, probably because of how much else she did, was her own drive for fiscal discipline and her efforts against the Keynesian establishment to bring runaway expenditures down. Public spending in aid of recovery had merely accelerated inflation and created higher rates of unemployment. Cutting spending brought the economy under control and within a matter of two or three years, Britain was launched on a path to recovery – as the film even obliquely acknowledges – and this was a recovery that was to last for a quarter century. Tony Blair, whatever changes he may have made, sensibly left Thatcherism alone.
The narrative device the film builds around, however, is the aged Margaret Thatcher, which I suppose has its role, Lioness in Winter and all that. But what irritated me was that they used it as a device for having Mrs Thatcher in endless conversations with her husband who had passed away many years before. If this is not an established historical fact, if this is not the form in which her alzheimer’s manifests itself, then this is more than disgusting.
I also did not find Meryl Streep’s version of Mrs Thatcher the convincing portrayal others seem to. The lines are no doubt from transcripts and speeches but she has a kind of superciliousness whose effect was to diminish the seriousness of each utterance. Since none of those who made the film actually can feel the authenticity of what Margaret Thatcher believed and spoke, Meryl Streep, for all her famed abilities as an actress, comes across as a shabby shallow shadow of the real thing.