Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Streep Proves Thatcher Mantra That 'One's Life Must Matter'

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Streep Proves Thatcher Mantra That 'One's Life Must Matter'

Article excerpt

At times, "The Iron Lady" seems like "The Madness of Maggie Thatcher."

That is especially true when the retired prime minister, now in her mid-80s, turns on the television, cranks up some music and flicks on noisy kitchen appliances to drown out the voice of her husband, Denis, who died eight years earlier in 2003.

"If I can't hear you, I can't see you ... I will not go mad. I will not," Margaret Thatcher (Meryl Streep) insists with the same determination as when she ordered, "The Falkland Islands belong to Britain and I want them back!"

"The Iron Lady," featuring yet another magnificent turn by Ms. Streep, takes a huge risk with its unconventional storytelling. It allows Margaret to have conversations with Denis (Jim Broadbent), who appears next to her in bed or across the breakfast table slathering butter on his toast, as she reminisces about her personal and professional lives.

Directed by Phyllida Lloyd ("Mamma Mia!") and written by Abi Morgan, it is as unconventionally told as "J. Edgar" was traditionally structured, although both allow their subjects to put their own spin on events.

In a 2008 memoir, Margaret's daughter, Carol, confirmed her mother was suffering from dementia but here she's presented as a dotty, strong-willed woman who can lecture the physician inquiring about her mental health or slip out of the house to buy milk at a corner grocery where she is just another slow-moving old lady in raincoat, head scarf, gloves and sensible heels.

The woman born Margaret Roberts was very much her father's daughter. He was an alderman and mayor of Grantham and ran a grocery, where Margaret worked until she was accepted at Oxford University to study chemistry.

In memories that ebb and flow, she recalls losing her first bid for Parliament in 1950 but happily accepting Denis' subsequent proposal of marriage, once he understands her philosophy of "One's life must matter." She envisions more than cooking, cleaning and children, adding, "I cannot die washing up a teacup," although the movie circles back to that notion.

Toggling between past and present, "The Iron Lady" tracks tweaking of her public persona -- higher hair, lower voice, no hats but always double-stranded pearls and tasteful jacket pin -- and the stiffening of her resolve, much to the fury of her detractors and enemies. …

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