Lifestyle & Belief

The Iron Lady, biopic of Margaret Thatcher opens in London


Meryl Streep greets fans who braved gale force winds and rain to watch her walk the red carpet at Wednesday's gala premier of "The Iron Lady"


Stuart Wilson

The film about Mrs. Thatcher creates greater unanimity than the real life former Prime Minister ever did during her long political career.

Everyone - film critics, former colleagues and the current Prime Minister, David Cameron - is effusive in their praise for star Meryl Streep. They all question whether the film itself is all that good, although for different reasons.

Cameron told the BBC "it's a fantastic piece of acting by Meryl Streep." But added, "It's more about ageing and elements of dementia rather than about an amazing prime minister". He added he wished it hadn't been made just now.  Presumably because the former PM is still alive.

Former cabinet colleagues of Thatcher were less polite. Lord Hurd, her Foreign Secretary, called the film "ghoulish." Lord Tebbitt, an ultra-loyalist, said he didn't recognize the "half-hysterical, over-emotional" Thatcher created by Streep.

From the left and right the critics had similar views of the film's strengths and, interestingly, Robbie Collin in the conservative Daily Telegraph didn't find all that many weaknesses, taking director Phyllida Law mildly to task, "To say The Iron Lady is better-directed than Mamma Mia isn’t much of a compliment, but it’s true, and a few clunky images aside (a close-up of Thatcher’s feet treading on fallen rose petals as she leaves Downing Street is a stupid person’s idea of a clever shot), the film moves fluidly and feels polished and authentically cinematic."

Peter Bradshaw in the left-wing Guardian was harder on Law and her screenwriter Abi Morgan. He accuses them of turning the former PM into a "biopic drag queen". Bradshaw writes, "Basically, this is a defanged, declawed, depoliticised Margaret Thatcher, whom we are invited to admire on the feeble grounds that she is tougher and gutsier than the men."

My own GlobalPost view, closer to Bradshaw's than Collin's, is here.

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