Friday, January 13, 2012

The Iron Lady

I was just too curious to resist the call of the movie house for this one. I could have saved money by just renting a DVD of Iris, also a retrospective-oriented movie about a once-strong old woman in the throes of dementia with a husband played by Jim Broadbent.

Because, really, that's what it is. And it's somewhat ghoulish that this could be done to someone who is, after all, still alive. (Iris had died not long before.) Politically, which is the part I was interested in, this was a fragmentary fantasia on Thatcherite themes. I do mean fragmentary: take all the political scenes in this movie and string them together, and you'd have the trailer for a better political movie. And I do mean Thatcherite, also: it's entirely from her pov, treating her colleagues and opponents alike as the pusillanimous knaves she undoubtably thinks they are.

The only other major political figures in the script for any purpose other than to be name- or face-checked (the other actors are recognizable as the famous pols they play in cameo mostly through their hairstyles) are Airey Neave and Geoffrey Howe. (Not a word about Keith Joseph, though I recognized his hairstyle briefly in a Commons scene, and Michael Heseltine exists purely to be name-checked and then to declare his candidacy, baffling any viewers who don't already know who he is.) Nicholas Farrell plays Neave as the Wise Old Mentor, and Tony Head, who really ought to know better, delivers a bad Geoffrey Howe impersonation.

Mostly, of course, it's Meryl Streep delivering the Illusion of Life so well that a fantasy-oriented viewer like me wonders, "Why bother?" As you watch this elderly woman tottering around, buying a pint of milk for 49p, figuring out which side of a DVD is up, and tossing her dead husband's clothes in plastic trash bags, you begin to thank the political incursion scenes, fragmentary as they are, for reminding you just who and what this pathetic-looking figure really was.

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