I have a shocking confession to make: in the pantheon of great Meryl Streep performances, I don’t think I’d rank this one near the top. To be clear: she’s absolutely fantastic in this role, but she’s always fantastic. I don’t think there’s anything that remarkable here, though it seems many people do. I have a sneaking suspicion this is because her physical transformation – the Margaret Thatcher makeup and all – is fairly remarkable. And I also think it’s possible that there’s so much hype surrounding Streep’s performance that, in the end, I couldn’t help but feel rather underwhelmed.
My second shocking confession is that, if you asked me to name the standout performance of this film, I’d actually say Jim Broadbent, who plays Thatcher’s husband, Denis. Broadbent has got to be one of the most endearing actors on the planet – whether he’s Bridget Jones’s bumbling dad, or silly Professor Slughorn, or here, where he plays a supremely loyal and slightly quirky spouse. He’s just so freaking lovable.
My major quibble with this film is its narrative device, which is similar to the one used in J. Edgar – we’re shown the main character in old age, reflecting back on his or her life. In a way, it seems a bit like a cop out to me, as though the filmmakers couldn’t figure out how to tell the story chronologically or something. I also think it makes the movie feel choppy – it jumps from event to event, but never really delves into any of them in great detail. On the one hand, that makes sense – Margaret Thatcher lived a pretty full life, so how could you possibly cover all of it? But on the other hand, it makes it hard to become invested in a film and a character, and to grasp what motivated her. The movie hints at it, here and there, but I never felt like it helped me understand what made the Iron Lady tick.
My Grade: B-