The Iron Lady (2011)

Disappointed over no Tony Starks cameo.

Meryl Streep provides a portrait of Margaret Thatcher, the first female prime minister of Britain, whose political career and determination changed the rules that had limited women’s opportunities for leadership.

It seems like 2011 will probably be best remembered for the year of the big disappointments. With films such as ‘The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’ and ‘J. Edgar’ just to name a few, a lot of films that have been hyped for the big awards-contenders have all seemed to anger people more than astonish. This one can now be added to that list as well.

Director Phyllida Lloyd (‘Mamma Mia!’) is a director who is obviously trying really hard to be taken seriously as a drama director, and even though she may need some more help in that department she still makes this film enjoyable to say the least. There is a lot of stuff about the obstacles in Thacther’s life that she had to deal with such as the Falklands War, the IRA, people that were always looking for a way to oust her, and giving people taxes that they didn’t like so much. There is a lot of this shown and plenty of the happenings that were occurring in Britain are shown through actual news reel footage which were at times disturbing and very clear as to what mayhem she really was causing. In some cases, re-creating what happened would have been a great idea, but using this archival footage added a lot to the whole history of Britain and what Thatcher was doing.

The script itself is pretty good and provides a very good history lesson but there’s something that’s off about the structure of this film that takes away a lot from making this a normal biopic. We are shown Thatcher’s life through flash-backs from Thatcher herself, when she is terribly old and going through dementia having constant hallucinations of her dead husband, Denis. This was bothersome for a large portion of the flick because it constantly kept going back-and-forth and whenever we would start to get back into Thatcher’s reign as Prime Minister, the film would then cut right back to old Thatcher being all crazy and talking to the wall. It almost has the same structure like ‘J. Edgar’ where we see an old version of the icon talking about the past, but in this case, there was too much of the old stuff and a lot less of the actual flashback stuff where we got to see Thatcher work her magic. The other thing I never understood was that she was so cooky and grief-striking but she still has enough sense and energy to rant and rave on about things she did back when she was Prime Minister to people such as her doctor or maid. It’s very strange to see this but I guess Thatcher really is a old woman among old women.

However, the problem with when we are at the flash-back sequences we never really get a sense as to whether or not what Thatcher is doing is right or wrong, and it doesn’t seem like the people who wrote or directed this had any standings either. I liked seeing all of the things that Thatcher did and whatnot but the film never reflects on if they were bad or not considering everybody who lived in Britain at the time, wanted off with her head. I guess that they were trying to take the easy way out and just bringing the British history text-book out to film but a little bit of opinions here and there would have been nice to see. You can also never tell what is fact or faction considering a lot here is about Thatcher’s life and only she would know what happened herself, so there’s a lot of actual guessing there.

A lot of these problems did go away when I realized that I was watching Meryl Streep on the screen. Streep is just about perfect in this flick as Thatcher basically taking over every scene she has while knocking down every mannerism and accent down pat. When Thatcher’s in her glory years as Prime Minister, it’s great to see Streep shine and show a lot of that powerful strength she has an actress that can take a scene and put the attention on her right away without you thinking about anyone or anything else but it’s her scenes as an old lady that are even better. Older Thatcher is a very sad and lonely gal and we feel this through Streep’s performance as she constantly shows how much her character never understands what she has done to her country and the effects that it had on everybody around her. It’s a great performance from Streep and she brings a great mix of charm, likability, and sadness to a character that needed it most of all.

The other good performance given here is by Jim Broadbent as her hubby, Denis. Broadbent is playing that usual quirky, somewhat goofy dude that always seems to lighten up the mood no matter what the scenes tone may be. Him and Streep have great chemistry and it really made me feel like they were in love, but the film doesn’t really focus on him all that much as it is more or less about Thatcher and what she does for her country which was kind of a shame considering the film could have really benefited from some real drama if they actually showed more scenes with each other when he was alive. There isn’t really anybody else worth noting in this cast considering that Streep takes over the spot-light which has its obvious positive but also negative effects.

Consensus: With an amazing performance by Streep and a great history lesson on Britain during Thatcher’s reign as Prime Minister, The Iron Lady will definitely entertain most people, but when it also has problems with its structure and the fact that we never ever really know if what Thatcher is doing is good or bad for the country that she so rightfully loves.



  1. Even if you paid me to see this I wouldn’t go. That woman (Thatcher) ruined this country and caused such a lot of the problems here that to have a film about her life makes me angry!!!

  2. I remember seeing a recent interview with the director, and she seemed to be trying to avoid saying her own opinion on if she felt Thatcher impacted her country in a negative or positive way. Obviously, it seems you saw that reflected in the movie.
    Great review!

  3. I agree that the dementia stricken Thatcher overpowered the movie, and we were unable to see Thatcher’s story when she was at her prime as Prime Minister. Although Streep’s performance as Thatcher overall was absolutely phenominal, and if it wasn’t for her, this movie would have been a total fail…smh. Nice review, check mine out when u get a chance!

  4. Without having seen the movie let me add my two cents…I think the whole point of the dementia stricken Thatcher was to make you feel sympathetic to the glory years Thatcher. Basically you were to conclude whether she did good or bad to her country in the end, it came from a place where she thought she was doing good. Most people already have an idea of what they think about Thatcher so as a movie maker, why try to fight an opinion that is probably already in place. Perhaps he wanted to soften a little the strong apposing views of the woman… Many dementia stricken people have a better recall of the extreme past than they do of the most recent present. It makes total sense she would be cooky now and yet recall the past as if she were presently there. I believe that’s why the director took the tact he did. With a main character/protagonist you want the view to be sympathetic to them whether they are morally good or bad doesn’t matter… Anyway that’s my two cents having not seen the movie. Cheers…

  5. Meryl Streep was incredible, but the filmmakers let her down! I would have much preferred a straight ahead biography of her “glory days” and not a portrait of a sweet old lady who is going senile. Yet Meryl Streep was so amazing, I’d have to give a recommendation. One of the great performances of 2011. Great review!

  6. Good review, even though I can’t agree with you wholeheartedly. The mentions of the archival footage reminded me of how it was used in “The Queen,” which used it in a far better way.

    Nice blog!

  7. Hey Dan – nice review – we seem to be on the very same page about the Director and scriptwriter not really taking a stand on the merits of Thatcher’s political career. By showing us the archival footage we can gather that she angered many many folks.

    But they sort of glossed over the ‘political events’ and switched over to the dementia side far too often.

    I’m not in agreement with the comment that said the older Thatcher was meant to soften the harsher reactions we may have had about Thatcher’s three terms in office. I disagree because everyone ages, becomes infirm, or unable to care for themselves. Since this happens to nearly everyone – you can’t forget the public career because the now elderly person is having difficulties.

    Unfortunately this – choosing what to highlight and what to do merely mention, is the inherent problem with all bio films – and it isn’t easy to avoid.. Playing it safe as a director and screenwriter seem to be the current method – after all , Clint Eastwood did the same with his J.Edgar bio-film.

    • Hi JustMeMike!

      Just because you were not softened by the director’s tactic doesn’t mean that isn’t what he intended on doing with his technique…it just means he wasn’t successful with you. Many filmmakers use this tactic especially when the audience typically would not be sympathetic. Anyway you obviously have strong anti-compassionate feelings toward the old and infirm…not everyone will get dementia…so it is DEFINITELY something to be sympathetic toward. The very fact that, as you say, EVERYONE gets infirm and unable to care for themselves makes it something you should be sympathetic toward. Karma says since you find it such an underwhelming affliction you would be the perfect candidate for it in your old age…

      Cheers 🙂

  8. I think I liked “Iron Lady” better than you did. It definitely appeals more to an older crowd. I did learn a lot about British history, especially how Margaret Thatcher’s political career developed. She overcame so much to become prime minister. Meryl Streep, of course, was amazing; she brought needed depth to the role. It’s no “The King’s Speech,” but it is a good film.

  9. I would agree that Streep is fantastic in it. She really gives a flawless performance. But I hated how there was no positive or negative review on the character. Yes, we learn about THATCHER’s views, but what of the filmmaker? I guess Lloyd didn’t have much of an opinion on Thatcher. You completely summed up my feelings on the movie – far more a disappointment than a movie belonging in any awards category aside from Best Actress for Streep. The movie was disjointed and frustrating to constantly be thrown back into current dementia-stricken Thatcher waddling around, being constantly bothered by her dead husband. What a mis-use of such a brilliant actor.

  10. Dan, it is most certainly NOT, as you put it, a great history lesson on Britain in the Thatch years. It’s also the worst film I’ve seen for quite some time. Hopeless direction, hopelessly vague facts, and basically an obituary of a person still alive. Unbelievably crass. As for Streep, great, she can do impressions. Book her for Vegas.

  11. I just watched this last weekend. There are plenty good life quotes but I felt like it’s a one sided story from the iron lady. And I seem to more impressed with her relationship with his husband rather than his work. Great review!

  12. Great review! To be honest, I’m really thankful for the old lady parts, both because I thought that Streep was better in them, and because I really couldn’t have sat through a film that focused more on her horrible politics.

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