Monday, March 12, 2012

The Iron Lady - A Great Biopic

Usually, I am not my own man when it comes to choosing the movie I want to watch. The choice is mostly driven by public opinion, newspaper reviews and Tweeter posts. But the problem is most times these opinions are divided on a movie. The Iron Lady, however, is an exception in this regard. It has been attracting praise both in organized and social media. Last week I watched the movie.

I liked the movie but I was reluctant to write about it because writing about the movie would also include writing about Meryl Streep’s performance as Thatcher and I, not having seen much of Thatcher during her days, am not familiar with Thatcher enough to assess how close was Streep’s Thatcher to the real thing.

But having read about her and seen her photos, I had a mental image of Margaret Thatcher and Meryl’s enactment seemed very close to that picture – the gait, composure, style of speaking and subtle changes in personality after Margaret Thatcher’s taking up of a bigger role in national politics. However, my post-viewing Youtube investigation revealed that Streep’s Thatcher’s style of speaking slightly differed with that of the original Iron Lady.

Meryl’s role moves back and forth between two phases of Thatcher’s life: one, an old and frail Thatcher now ailing from dementia; two, a vigorous young political leader on the rise. The narrative is anchored around Thatcher’s old age, a retired public figure spending her last days reminiscing about her past glories, and visits various phases of her life, from childhood and adolescence to her rise in public life, in flashback.

The movie is something to remember not just for its cinematic merits but also the dramatic life of its protagonist – Margaret Thatcher, who, from humble origins (a grocer’s daughter), rose to become one of the most charismatic prime ministers of her country. Thatcher’s political career lends itself naturally to movie because it coincided with many a crisis Britain went through – the Argentinean transgression on the Falklands island, IRA terrorism, economic problems, etc. Her dealing of all these crises explains her sobriquet – The Iron Lady, which, incidentally, was given by Russians.

Margaret had a tough upbringing. She used to manage her father’s grocery shop and didn’t have too many friends. She, in fact, was a quite an odd girl with a studious personality. Her political education started early in conservative political discipline and her conservative convictions grew deeper and deeper as she grew up. Although her initial brush with the world of power and the powerful was not without its awkward moments due to her unassuming upbringing, gradually she became comfortable, came into her own as a leader and handled important portfolios in the Conservative government.

The movie has its moments. It starts with Thatcher shopping in a departmental store with Panjabi songs playing in the background to convey the hybrid culture with a dominant presence of Punjabis in the current day Britain. It delivers its surprises and plot twists smartly. I conservative party leader close to Margaret is suddenly killed in a car bomb, planted by IRA, a few seconds after he had told Margaret bye on his way out of the parking zone. Margaret was considering standing for party leadership election; the bomb blast steels her resolve. Similarly, there are other moments you will enjoy as you watch it.

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