I had a chance to see an advanced screening of Iron Lady, a new film starring Meryl Streep which follows the life of former British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. And I liked it!
While Meryl Streep`s performance has been widely praised, the film itself has been criticized for being short on substance and long on sentimentality.
As a progressive, I say be prepared for disparaging (and predictable) references to trade unions, socialists, the poor, etc. However, I thought Meryl Streep`s portrayal of Thatcher was Oscar-worthy, and found the film’s strength to be in its depiction of how Thatcher broke through the gender barriers to become Britain’s first female Prime Minister.
Indeed, when Thatcher became Prime Minister, women made up only 3% of government. So it’s no surprise that in the film Thatcher is often shown flanked by male politicians and advisors. In fact, I noticed very few female roles in the film – other than her daughter, service staff and protestors & supporters in crowds. Watching, you do get a sense of how difficult it must have been for Thatcher as someone who always felt more comfortable with men, but at the same time was never part of the old boys club.
The film also does a good job of covering of many of the pressing challenges Thatcher faced as a female MP, including: work-family balance; the tendency for there to be an unfair focus on looks and appearance rather than the issues; the imposter complex which is a belief that one doesn’t have what it takes to get to the top; and of course sexist heckling and name calling during Question Period sessions. The film is set in the 1970/80s but all sound familiar to me!
But what was surprising, and glaringly absent from trailers, is that a great deal of the film focuses on Thatcher life in the present; long after her days as Britain’s Iron Lady. I won’t say much more, other than while watching I often found myself wondering what Margaret Thatcher herself (who is still alive) thought of the portrayal of her later years.
Iron Lady opens everywhere on Friday January 13th. Check it out!