Dir. Phylidia Lloyd. UK. 2011.

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When it came to the Oscars this year, there were two women up for Best Actress in roles where they impersonated famous female icons of the 20th century.  Meryl Streep (who won) portrayed Margaret Thatcher, the first female Prime Minister of the United Kingdom who was as polarising a cultural and social figure during her tenure, more so than her successors Blair and Cameron.  Michelle Williams, played Marilyn Monroe in My Week With Marilyn, the sultry screen siren of Hollywood during the 1950s and 60s.  It was a surprise that Streep (who has won two Oscars previously) beat out Williams who failed one her third nomination, as Hollywood usually salute their own history and the passing over of a Monroe imitation came as a shock as the Best Picture was awarded to The Artist a film about the silent era of the silver screen.

The Iron Lady is released on DVD tomorrow (Monday 30th April) and so many will get a chance to examine Streep's dead on impersonation and portrayal of Maggie, she is helped by a sterling turn by Jim Broadbent as her esteemable husband, Denis.

The film is not your typical biopic, and does not follow the generic structure of a biopic movie.  Usually you follow the star/idol from humble beginnings through to success via questions of loyalty and trouble to the height of acclaim to the eventual fall from grace ending with a triumphant return and comeback.  Much like the life of Elvis but set to film. 

Recently biopics specifically Ray (Ray Charles) and Walk the Line (Johnny Cash) used the narrative structure of focusing on the height of those gentleman's success over a 10 year period and only focusing on their earlier life in short flashbacks upon incidents that caused them to be the conflicted characters they became.

The Iron Lady's script by acclaimed author, Abi Morgan, takes the route of meeting the former PM in an elderly state, retired from public life, battling dementia and having visions of her dead husband roaming around the house, which worries her daughter Carol (Olivia Coleman).

The script then goes into the flashback format of the biopic genre, we meet Margaret Roberts - the grocer's daughter - who after an initial loss in a by-election becomes a MP at an early age.  Then comes the promotion and a place in the Conservative government and eventual rise to leader of the party before her election as leader of the country in 1979.

The script by Morgan covers all the major talking points of her leadership - Falklands, coal mine disputes, poll tax riots, the Brighton bombing in 1982 - yet it does not do this chronological order instead it uses Margaret's wilting memory and identity as an excuse to skip from one event to the other; so we get the triumph of the Falklands in 1982, happening here after the coal mine riots and social clashes in Brixton and Toxteth which actually occured in 1983.  The triumph of the Falklands leads to a business boom in Britain and wonderful international relations with America and a darling of the media.

In actuality, Thatcher was always fighting and always up against it from unions, voters, media and even people in her party which led to the eventual leadership race with Geoffrey Howe (Anthony Head) and Michael Heseltine (Richard E. Grant), a race that actually crosses out the winner and future PM John Major.

The script whilst aiming to be something more akin to Peter Morgan's The Queen which starred Helen Mirren, is somewhat slapdash and attempts to be something greater than it is, and unfortunately does a disservice to the legend of Mrs.Thatcher, a woman who was always on her own in a fight and yet was strict enough to stand by her convictions and beliefs. The direction by Phylidia Lloyd offers nothing in terms of visual panache, although the focusing on hands as a motif of recollection and remembering is a nice touch.

We seem to get a depiction of a famous leader who always had to fight but was shaped more by the events she had to govern over rather than putting her footprint down on her people; although the compassion and companionship between Margaret and Denis is never in doubt thanks to the wonderful performances by Streep and Broadbent.

The Iron Lady is out on DVD from Monday 30th April from Pathe Home Entertainment.

Jamie Garwood

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