The genre of biopic is normally a field where event after event has the viewer thinking that if they didn't know that it was based on fact, they'd believe that it was made up by writers.
The story of the Western World's first female Prime Minister, like the lady herself, is a film that will split people down the middle, and not just because of its central character.
Director Lloyd, who gave the world a singing Meryl Streep in Mama Mia!, tackles the controversial figure with a very strange narrative and an emphasis that will only serve to further the divide between the haters and the lovers. The story deals with the ageing Thatcher as she tries to exorcise the ghost of her dead husband all the while having various things conjure up memories from her political life.
This style has an unusual side effect where rather than a woman who either didn't back down in the face of adversity or caused the adversity (depending on your stance), you are presented with an old woman that could be your grandmother. Of course some will think that this is a deliberate ploy to make you feel sympathy for Margret, which for awhile, does feel like that is the aim - she's pushed and ignored by representatives of "business" and "youth" in a corner shop, she's talked about in hushed tones from people who "care/worry" for her health both mental and physical. But for each moment of that stance, you are presented with the memories of the miner's strike or the poll tax riots.
These aren't delved into too deeply, maybe for fear of moving it into the realms of political-based drama rather than the memories of a woman based in a man's world. The spotlight on the legislation side of her "reign" could possibly alienate the audience over the age of 30 who lived through the policies implemented by her and her government. Infact, where the film scores highly is in its depiction of what she faced from the all male environment at work. The shots of all grey/black suits bustling into the chamber like a rush hour crowd on the tube with deep in its midst one lone splash of bright blue trying to stand its ground; the handbag which never leaves her side especially after speech to the opposition that "today is not a day" for their petty squabbles; telling the American ambassador that Hawaii is just as much a small island as the Falklands are; the Kings Speech-esque voice training session that delivers a truly laugh out loud moment involving Dennis who is patiently (as he does throughout the whole film played wonderfully by Broadbent) waiting in the wings for hid "MT" - all these are standout moments.
Even if your memories or political views refuse to let you like the idea of a story of Thatcher, the one thing that cannot be denied or quibbled with is Streep's performance. Those few that shine no matter how bad the film is (Denzel Washington in Training Day for example) have a new standard to match up to. In both the later years and the political years, Streep nails every aspect. Her current Thatcher is full of little shakes, vague mind wanderings and aches and pains that make you forget exactly what Streep looks like - the transformation is truly stunning.
A mixed film but with one of the strongest and finest performances from not just Streep but from any other actor, her depiction of a woman in her prime and trying to deal with no longer having such prime or power is worth the admission price alone.
UK release date: 06.01.12