Director: Phyllida Lloyd.
Cast: Meryl Streep, Jim Broadbent, Alexandra Roach, Harry Lloyd, Anthony Head.
WHEN I mentioned to someone who had lived in Great Britain during the Thatcher years that I was going to see The Iron Lady, his response was "why the bloody hell would you want to see a movie about her?".
It's a fair question for Brits - asking them to view the country's first female prime minister as a living, breathing human is like asking Christians to have sympathy for the devil. Or asking Aussies to watch a similarly styled biopic about John Howard.
Breathing humanity into Thatcher seems to be the aim of this award-baiting drama, and it succeeds in turning "Maggie T" from a cold caricature to a well-rounded and flawed (but still cold) individual - in other words, a real person.
This won't sit well with anyone who endured her controversial reign, but it makes for interesting viewing.
The viewing would be far less interesting without Streep. Her performance, as is characteristic of the greatest actress ever to grace the screen, is typically immersive, capturing every intonation, tic and gesture on the surface, while delving deep into the psyche of a woman nicknamed The Iron Lady not for nothing.
Streep's magnetic turn is the glue of the film, which otherwise struggles to maintain focus. Condensing a prominent historical figure's life into two hours is always difficult, and this biopic struggles with the task.
Focusing on an autumn years Thatcher, rattling around her house battling the demons of dementia while trying to let go of her late husband Denis (Broadbent), the film tells its story by moving in and out of history unevenly as the former PM deals with the remembrances of things past. We get glimpses of her youth, her rise, her early days with Denis, her election and the many dramas that unfolded during her lengthy stay at Number 10 - from the Troubles to the Falklands, from the strikes to the end of the Cold War.
It's jerky delivery may have worked better with a less scattergun approach, but at least we get an impressive characterisation that mixes empathy for an ageing lady resigned to the history books with a portrait of a head-strong firecracker who made hard decisions.
The Iron Lady is apologetic of Thatcher - someone had to make the hard decisions - but it doesn't shy away from her flaws, painting her as predominantly heartless and humourless, increasingly autocratic and unable to concede she might be wrong.
Like Thatcher, the film is also heartless and humourless, and its back-and-forth narrative also make it unfocused.
But a great performance can elevate a mediocre film, as is the case here - this is worth watching for Streep alone.