The Iron Lady: written by Abi Morgan; directed by Phyllida Lloyd; starring Meryl Streep (Margaret Thatcher), Jim Broadbent (Denis Thatcher), and Alexandra Roach (Young Margaret Thatcher) (2011): If Harold Pinter had suffered grievious brain damage just prior to writing a biopic of Margaret Thatcher, this might have been the result.
This isn’t a movie concerned with history — it’s a movie concerned with Meryl Streep acting up a storm as an increasingly dementia-addled Margaret Thatcher decades after the end of her stint as Prime Minister of Great Britain. A real person with a debilitating illness? No wonder Streep won the Oscar for Best Actress!
The movie’s frame story dominates everything. Demented Margaret Thatcher interacts with the hallucination of her dead husband, who is perhaps the most annoying hallucination in screen history. We jump back and forth in time, visiting Thatcher’s early days in politics (when she’s played by Alexandra Roach) leading up to the point at which she turned into Meryl Streep.
Then Meryl Streep takes over. The movie is about as concerned with history as one would expect something from the director of Mamma Mia! to be. The Falkland Islands war is won by British gumption, saving Thatcher’s political career and making Great Britain an economic power again. Then the poll tax (never, I believe, named as such in his dishistoricized movie) brings Thatcher down, but really she may just be suffering from early onset dementia. Or something. I don’t fucking know.
In the end, the ghost of Denis (Phantom Denis, I guess) goes back into the UFO from Close Encounters of a Third Kind, leaving Margaret to finish cleaning the dishes. Streep, having chewed enough scenery to guarantee an Oscar, is then elevated to the pantheon of Greatest Actresses Ever. A Mamma Mia!/Margaret Thatcher crossover looms tantalizingly in the distance. Not recommended.