I was reading the Daily Mail online recently and found an article by Andrew Pierce which was nothing more than an unrestrained attack on both The Iron Lady and Meryl Streep, one of the greatest Actresses in recent years. Pierce picks up on things like the acting talent of Streep, the writing and the various inconsistencies. In my view this is, for the most part, completely unjustified.
Let’s start with Pierce’s first issue, the portrayal of Thatcher as a sad, confused, old woman agonising over whether her policies had been too harsh and/or unjust. Is this fair? Well yeah, kinda. We see Thatcher drifting off in the trailers and maybe the character does come across in the way Pierce describes but here’s the thing, there are so many interpretations of this woman. Some view her as an excellent politician and leader, a strong minded individual who won well deserved victories in three general elections and made difficult decisions for the good of the country. Others view her as an out of touch and often very heartless woman, who infamously closed the mines and invaded the Falklands. I don’t think this film should be attacked for showing Thatcher in a different light, in fact it showed her in a very sympathetic one. I think the film is more of a comment on the effect of power on even the strongest people rather than a biopic. Thatcher is still alive and her time in power was recent but opinions are still so divided over this woman that I think the film should be allowed to show her in this way. Of course some people aren’t going to like it, many don’t, but the point still stands. Let it try something different.
Pierce’s second issue is the inconsistencies with reality. He picks up on things like the way Thatcher walks, the fact that she never wore a hat in the House of Commons, Carol Thatcher rarely visits her mother and the way her carer calls her Lady Thatcher rather than Margaret as she does in the film. Firstly, these are very small issues; I don’t think it makes a great deal of difference. Secondly, it’s a film and you really have to expect this sort of thing. Of course it isn’t going to be true to life, of course there are going to be some difference, that’s not the point, the point is that the film is about the woman and her mind, the theme of the effect of power. It’s a film, not a documentary, not everything has to be spot on. If you want an account of Thatcher’s life that is completely genuine then I suggest you read one of the many biographies or watch on of the many documentaries about this fascinating woman. If you want to be a little looser and watch an account of Thatcher which looks more at the idea of Thatcher as a tragic figure then watch the film.
Thirdly and most frustratingly, Pierce attacks Streep’s performance and the fact that she received an Oscar for the role. Pierce claims that Streep is more imitating Thatcher rather than really giving a proper insight into this woman’s mind. This argument hinges almost entirely on the voice Streep adopts during the film and, to be fair, yeah it does seem like an imitation, but here’s the thing. Aside from the, often controversial, policies and her rise to power from lowly roots, what is the first thing you think of when you imagine Margaret Thatcher? The voice. Absolutely. It would be impossible to attempt a performance of Thatcher without imitating her voice, granted Streep does seem to put it on a little strongly but, once again, you have to allow for some artistic licence. The performance itself is a great one; Streep really gets the view of Thatcher as a tragic figure very well. Pierce picks up on this and, of course, he doesn’t like it. Here’s the thing though. Streep is not to blame for this, it’s the writing. The writers are the ones who created the Thatcher of this film, not Streep; she had no part in this. It’s the actor’s job to portray the writer’s vision of the character. Yes, the actor can be a little flexible with the character but for the most part it’s very much down to the writers. Streep did the best she could with this character. She wasn’t offensive, if you want to claim that the character was offensive then target the writers, Streep was doing her job, in fact why would she take the script if she wanted to be offensive, she obviously thought well of the idea of looking at Thatcher in a different way.
The Iron Lady doe not deserve this harsh criticism. It was a look at Thatcher that reflects the effects of power and the pressures of such an important position. Margaret Thatcher was the obvious subject for such a take, her time in power was riddled with controversy, most of which remains today. The Iron Lady is not an attack on Thatcher, it’s an attempt to portray her in a sympathetic light, as a woman for whom power, overwhelming responsibility and hardship affected in the worst way and, with the bad feelings that still surround her, I think she should be grateful.