titletheironlady

You’d be forgiven for doubting the director of lightweight fluff like Mamma Mia! could do justice to a biopic about Britain’s most famous dictator-in-waiting, Margaret Thatcher. Yet re-teamed with Meryl Streep, that’s exactly what she has achieved in this riveting, often surprising account about the UK’s longest serving, and the West’s first female, leader. Riveting because of Streep's performance, surprising because The Iron Lady is no hatchet job. Lloyd even gives breath to Thatcher’s small-f feminism: a woman who refused to take no for an answer, and certainly not from a man.

The Iron Lady is a probing character study tacked to a whirlwind round-up of career achievements and this brevity may disappoint some. However it serves as the film’s key strength in a story that explores courage through a now elderly Thatcher’s battle with increasing dementia. She’s also haunted by the ghost of her late husband Dennis (Jim Broadbent) who gives Lloyd the perfect vehicle to dip into flashback; from young Margaret’s political awakening at the knee of her grocer-father through eleven event-filled years as a belligerent Prime Minister who broke a crippling miner’s strike, was bombed in Brighton, went to war with Argentina and managed to pull a nation off its knees amid tax riots.

But these events serve as background for this is foremost the story of a little old lady who finds the courage to discard her late husband’s clothes. Streep is, not surprisingly, magnetic as Thatcher and consumes the frame with a powerful, all consuming presence. She travels beyond impersonation to evoke this force of nature's severe intensity, and as a fragile, elderly woman is simply stunning. Together with Broadbent’s playfulness, their scenes command an unexpected tenderness while revealing the single minded determination that made Thatcher one of modern Europe's most revered and despised leaders, as well as a beloved wife. It's this fascinating juxtaposition that makes The Iron Lady such a mesmerising film.

// COLIN FRASER
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STUFF

CAST
Meryl Streep
Jim Broadbent
Olivia Colman
Richard E. Grant

DIRECTOR
Phyllida Lloyd

SCREENWRITER
Abi Morgan

COUNTRY
UK

RATING / RUNTIME
M / 105 minutes

AUSTRALIAN
RELEASE DATE
December 26, 2011
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Stacks Image 135
moviereview colin fraser film movie australia review critic flicks