The Iron Lady – a second opinion

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.

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33 Responses to The Iron Lady – a second opinion

  1. Boy on a bike says:

    Nice review.

  2. johno says:

    I find this line from Streep very telling. “For feminists it’s a betrayal because she doesn’t do the right thing, and so you hate her more than you’d hate a man who stood for the same things.”

    That the Great Lady became the first female leader of a major Western power and, as the leader of a Party that didn’t at the time kowtow to feminist dogma, achieved it on her own merit, isn’t good enough for Streep. She has to be ‘hated’ because she didn’t ‘do the right thing’.

    It appears that being a successful woman isn’t enough to be a feminist icon. You have to be the right kind of woman, with the right kind of beliefs, and presumabily, if you have the right beliefs, you then deserve the rewards without any actual achievements.

    Where is my copy of Emily’s List.

  3. Jim Rose says:

    Thatcher’s great success, as she said herself, i think, was keeping British Labor out of power until they became sane again. did Sleep mention this?

  4. Megan says:

    I’d decided not to see the film after reading an almost identical quote from Streep in an magazine interview late last year. No understanding of Maggie’s time and place, was my first thought. Second thought was…whatever happened to bringing an open mind to the the task of playing Thatcher? It left me in no doubt her personal views were going to colour her portrayal.

  5. TimT says:

    I found it mostly an apolitical film – thank heavens. Imagine if it had been otherwise – seriously! How would you dramatise the fiscal stabilisation of the British economy in the period 1978 – 1990? Animated bar graphs? About the only political event mentioned in any detail was the Faulklands War, and there was no real analysis there either.

    Maybe if Streep and director Phyllida Lloyd had realised it was apolitical it may have been a better film.

  6. Louis Hissink says:

    Mathew Parris seems to have a different interpretation of Streep’s acting – as noted in the Los Angelese times.

  7. Rafe says:

    Streep, what a leftie creep! Thanks for that quote Steve.

    I wonder if she will be picked to play Margit Mises when they do a film of the great Austrian. Or “Hennie” Popper?

    Factoid for the day, Margit was an actress and Ludwig, of the upper classes, conducted some investigations before he got serious about dating her.

  8. Thank you for that review Steve!
    I had hesitated going to the film because of Streep’s utterances and some reviews I had read; particularly about much of the film being about Thatcher’s later years. It always beggars belief that the left luvvies can’t help themselves when it comes to a strong woman being successful when they have no ability to be so under their own steam.

  9. bruce says:

    Even on the poster, Streep appears a nasty or perhaps Pythonesque caricature of Thatcher.

  10. Jim Rose says:

    rafe,

    the number of right-wing actors could be counted on one hand. would be an easy pop quiz question.

    the only ones of any prominance are often action stars who need to stay in tune with their beer drinking audiences.

  11. papachango says:

    “It appears that being a successful woman isn’t enough to be a feminist icon. You have to be the right kind of woman.”

    True. There was a feature in the Sunday Age on Melinda Tankard Reist, the anti-porn, anti-raunch feminist activist. Not really sure of her politics but probably a leftie. She ticks all the boxes as a ‘feminist hero’, even worked for the ABC and various NGOs, except that she’s (gasp!) anti-abortion.

    According to the ‘real’ feminists like Leslie Cannold and Eva Cox, that immediately disqualifies her.

  12. Yobbo says:

    Not really true Jim. There are a number of comedic actors who are are right-wing as well. Adam Sandler and Vince Vaughan are 2 pretty famous ones.

  13. Yobbo says:

    The truth is that the reason you don’t know who the conservative/libertarian celebrities are is that they don’t act like Sean Penn or Tim Robbins and spout off every thought in their head at every opportunity.

  14. Winston Smith says:

    Jim, with all due respect,do you have have a problem with beer drinkers?
    Is it the same as my dislike for people who are too lazy to use their caps tab?

  15. M Ryutin says:

    “One would have to be at least fifty to have any serious recollection of that moment when she took office in 1979”

    This precedes a descriptive list of things wrong in the UK inherited by Thatcher but, as in all others today, leaves out the most succinct and devastating description of the Callaghan Britain – by Paul Johnston:

    “A stinking, bankrupt, industrial slum”

  16. Warwick says:

    Thanks for the review, Steven. I was undecided about seeing the film, now I’ll gisve it a miss. I have a natural aversion to films and television series which attempt to portray prominent people with whose careers I am familiar, anyway. They always appear to me to be caricatures. But I am curious to know whether Sir Alan Walters, one of the first eminent economists to question Keynesianism, got any kind of guernsey in the film. Did he?

  17. Steve Kates says:

    I should probably have said in the post itself how much we enjoyed the film, in part because Margaret Thatcher’s record is so stellar that no matter where you point the searchlight, what you find is what she did. It is a travesty as a depiction of the 20th century’s greatest woman – who’s second, I wonder, Madame Curie? But if you watch it the way we did, it is one triumph after another until the poll tax. And of course, old age which is a bugger.

  18. Viva says:

    Margaret’s Thatchers great achievements are undoubted. But she manifestly lacked self doubt to an extreme degree and appeared to lack significant empathy. While these traits are necessary when you engage in a major exercise of creative destruction, they open the door to all the vitriol which has continued to be heaped at her door. Don’t expect that to change any time soon.

  19. Bill says:

    Her political achievement was tremendous. The second greatest British Prime Minister of the 20th century, and second only to the greatest of all Englishmen.

    Watching a film by Steeep and the luvvies would be like watching a grave robbing.

  20. papachango says:

    I’d actually put her as the greatest British PM ever (and one of the greatest world leaders ever), ahead of Churchill, who was an undisputably brilliant wartime leader, but only an average peacetime PM.

  21. Peter Patton says:

    In a way, Thatcher was also a wartime leader.

  22. Peter Patton says:

    In a way, Thatcher was also a war time leader.

  23. blogstrop says:

    It’s so galling for them to see recognition that she actually did a lot of good that they now have to do the late-in-the-piece teardown.
    News media and movies are too important to be run predominantly by leftists. Admissions have now surfaced (in Primetime Propaganda by Ben Shapiro) that even TV series were consciously tailored to give the leftist line!

  24. JC says:

    They just have to do a number on her, don’t they. They really can’t help themselves.

  25. Oh come on says:

    I haven’t seen the film, but the bit about her talking to her dead husband as if he’s still there seems incredibly disrespectful. Which I wouldn’t necessarily have a problem with if the filmmakers were open and honest about their intention to portray her in a disrespectful way. But to pretend you’re taking a neutral, apolitical point of view and then show her in her twilight years as a demented old dodderer is insulting the intelligence of the audience, as well as the subject of the film.

  26. THR says:

    Considering that much of the British Isles still reviles Thatcher as ‘divisive’, to say the least, I’m not sure why anybody would expect some kind of cinematic hagiography. I haven’t seen the film (and don’t intend to) but it appears to be attempting to humanise an ideologue and sociopath, not push some leftist barrow.

  27. blogstrop says:

    Ideologue and sociopath are not terms I’d throw around freely, given your track record here THR.

  28. THR says:

    Who says I throw them around lightly, blogstrop? Thatcher hurt many of her citizens, and not just the ‘union bosses’ of right-wingers’ imaginations.

  29. Sean says:

    Probably because she was the first to go against what the public still wanted: National Socialism without the nutty nazi element.

  30. Peter Patton says:

    I can’t believe Streep said that rubbish. What an ignorant airhead. Just stick to the script, darl, leave the thinking to others.

  31. perturbed says:

    Pretty soon the world will go to hell and people will be looking for feel-good Hollywood escapism again, not navel-gazing flagellatory introspective bullshit or Aesop fables dressed up as clever storytelling. Which IMO is a good thing – I want to see films in which stereotypical good guys battle through adversity to survive and the stereotypical bad guys die screaming in every way the film-makers can contrive to show without actually getting banned.

    As awful as it was as a film, I would rather sit through a showing of Chuck Norris in “Delta Force” than go see this turgid piece of character assassination.

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