There are many times when I watch a movie because I am keen to see it, many times when I just watch a film that I know nothing about and many times when I watch something that has been recommended to me and sit there, hoping that I will like it as much as whoever gave me the heads up. The Iron Lady is a film that I didn't really want to watch, but circumstances have kind of pushed it up my "to view" list and I decided to bite the bullet and give it a go.
It stars Meryl Streep, almost unrecognisable at times, as Margaret Thatcher (played in her younger incarnation by Alexandra Roach), the Conservative MP who became the first female Prime Minister of Great Britain and changed the country, for better or worse (I know how I feel about her changes, but I'm going to do my best to avoid getting into any potential heated debate here). Jim Broadbent plays her husband, Denis (younger version - Harry Lloyd), and Olivia Colman is daughter, Carol.
Anyone expecting a warts 'n' all look at the life of a highly controversial figure will end up highly disappointed. This is a film designed to show its main character bathed in a warm glow, showing her as a tough woman who may have made some mistakes, with emphasis on the word "may". In fact, it skirts around so many big moments that there are many scenes which may leave you wondering just what the point of the film is until you remember that the point is to remind everyone of how great Margaret Thatcher was.
Streep is superb in the main role. She nails the voice - though anyone who has read my review of Lincoln will know that I don't rate any performance that I feel is JUST an impression - but also gets the mannerisms and strength of character just right. In fact, she made me like the character (which I certainly didn't expect). Broadbent is a cheery supporting figure throughout, giving a typically Broadbentian (which is now a word) performance. Olivia Colman does well and the supporting cast contains great names such as Richard E. Grant, John Sessions and Anthony Head.
The script by Abi Morgan is safe and sweet at every turn, and the direction from Phyllida Lloyd goes exactly the same way. This is a film made by people who watched The King's Speech a few too many times and just decided that they could insert Margaret Thatcher into the template and get away with it. Well, that's easier than actually making something that actually has some substance and thought-provoking moments. The end result doesn't impress, certainly not this viewer anyway.
I'm sure that this will play well in America, where people seem to love this portrayal of Britain onscreen (the absurdity of British politics, the conversations that take place with tea and biscuits, etc). It will also play well to fans of Margaret Thatcher. But it won't appeal to those who don't like the woman all that much and it won't appeal to fans of great movies. Because it isn't one. Streep deserves all of the praise heaped upon her performance, it's just a shame that she wasn't given a better film around her.