The Iron Lady (2011)

 

 

 

Director:     .

Starring:     Meryl Streep (Margaret Thatcher), Jim Broadbent (Denis Thatcher), Susan Brown (June), Alice da Cunha (Cleaner), Phoebe Waller-Bridge (Susie), Iain Glen (Alfred Roberts), Alexandra Roach (Young Margaret Thatcher), Victoria Bewick (Muriel Roberts), Emma Dewhurst (Beatrice Roberts), Olivia Colman (Carol Thatcher), Harry Lloyd (Young Denis Thatcher), Sylvestra Le Touzel (Hostess 1949), Michael Culkin (Host 1949), Stephanie Jacob (Female Guest 1949), Robert Portal (Grey Suited Guest 1949).

Margaret Thatcher

 

Spoiler Warning:

As an old lady, Margaret Thatcher goes to a corner store.  She picks up some milk and a newspaper.  She returns home and fixes her husband Denis Thatcher breakfast. 

Apparently, her going out on her own, has upset the whole staff.  The question is:  "How could she possibly have got out?"  "It's very, very important that the front door is left locked."  Margaret listens to the whispered conversations. 

Margaret goes up stairs and picks out the right coat for her husband to wear.  They watch and listen to three policemen talking about Margaret having gone to the store by herself.  Denis says:  "Now look what you've done.  Are they to keep the loonies out or you in?"

Margaret's personal secretary, Susie, arrives and has copies of Margaret's book to sign for book buyers.  Sitting there Margaret hears a siren go off.  She thinks back to the days of World War II. 

Flashback.  Her parents and she are hiding from the bombings of the London Blitz.  Father says they forgot to cover the butter.  Margaret runs out and over to the table to cover the butter.  Just then bombs start dropping not that far away from their house and Margaret is shocked at how close the bombs came.

Margaret works in her father's grocery store.  She listens to a speech about small business and is very into it, until she is called back to the store to work.  She works a lot and gets teased a lot.  Her father, Mr. Roberts, always tells her:  "Never run with the crowd, Margaret.  Go your own way."

Margaret gets a telegram explaining that she has got a place at Oxford.  

Back to the present.  Margaret's daughter comes to see her mother.  She is supposed to help Mother to give away some of daddy's shirts, pants and coats.  On the TV, there is news of the terrorist bombings in Mumbai.  This makes her think of the IRA and the terrible bombing of the Grand Hotel in Brighton, scene of the Conservative Party conference.  Margaret tells her daughter and a servant:  "We must, never, ever, ever give in to terrorists."

Margaret doesn't like her daughter to fuss, fuss, fuss over her.  Her daughter tells her who will be at the dinner tonight, noting that they're a little short on the number of women in attendance.  Margaret says:  "I've always preferred the company of men."

Flashback.  Margaret thinks back to the time she was considering running for the Parliament.  She goes into a situation of five men and only two women.  There she meets her future husband.  At the dinner Denis Thatcher tells Margaret Roberts to work the silverware this way:  "Start on the outside, work your way in."   The wealthy people ask her if her father was interested in politics?  She says he always was.  And, yes, her father had a small grocery store.  The people agree that's a good starting point for a politician.  She replies:  "That and a degree from Oxford."  Denis is amused by her innocence and her boldness in handling questions.  He laughs.  After dinner, the men ask Margaret to join the ladies.

Back to the present.  Things go well at the dinner, except that Margaret is a little out of it.  She is having troubles remembering things.  After dinner she asks her daughter to send Mark up to talk to her.  The daughter has to tell her that Mark, Sarah and the children live in South Africa now.  And mother is no longer Prime Minister and dad is dead. 

Flashback.  Denis takes Margaret out to an opera.  The radio broadcasts that Margaret Roberts lost her bid for a seat in Parliament today but she had put new life into the Dartford Conservative Association.  Denis comes in to cheer her up with his funny walking maneuvers.  And he says that the wealthy now see Margaret as a grocer's daughter:  "But if you were to become the wife of a moderately successful businessman, then you'd get to Parliament.  And I'd get to be the happiest man in wherever they select you."  He asks her to marry him and she says yes.  She adds a bit of a warning:  she is not going to be a silent wife on the arm of her husband or a wife stuck in the kitchen doing the dishes.  "One's life must matter, Denis."  Denis says that's why he is so keen on marrying her.  Margaret seems relieved.  They kiss. 

To the music of "Shall We Dance?" from the King and I musical of Rodgers and Hammerstein, the couple dance together. 

Back to the present.  Margaret puts a DVD in the DVD player and watches her twin children, a boy and a girl, playing down by the beach shore.  She imagines that Denis is with her talking about the children.  Then when she looks again, Denis is not there.  She imagines she sees her children running down the hall. 

Flashback. Margaret Thatcher wins a seat in Parliament from Finchley in 1959.  She remembers her first drive up to Parliament and how the kids chased after her car.  She walks down a long hall and the men stare at her.  She can't go into their members' club.  She becomes the Right Honorable Lady, the Secretary of State for Education.  She is a fiery defender of her positions, despite some sexism from the males. 

There was a teachers' strike and now the unions won't pick up the garbage and the smell is becoming an awful problem.  And then there are more and more strikes.  The Conservative Prime Minister says that it's time for conciliation, but Margaret says this is hardly the time for conciliation with the strikers.

It's 1974 and there are blackouts and no petrol.  "It's a mess."  Prime Minister Edward Heath (1970-1974) should resign now.   They need a new person who won't be afraid of tackling the unions. 

Margaret tells her husband and daughter Carol that she is going to run for leader of the Conservative party.  Carol just walks away from her mother.  And Denis is not too happy either.  Margaret explains that Heath is weak and he's weakened the party.  They need someone with the guts to say the un-sayable.  And its her duty.  Denis tells her it's not her duty, it's her ambition that is driving her to do this.  He adds:  "And the rest of us, me, the children, we can all go to hell!"  He walks out. 

The doctor has told Denis that he needed a rest.  So he took off for South Africa by himself.  Many years later she asked Dennis where did he go when he left?  Denis wants to know:  "How many days passed before you realized I'd gone?  Probably had to ask the cleaning woman where I was."  Margaret asks:  "When did I lose track of everyone?"  Denis says:  "Too busy climbing the greasy pole, MT."

Two PR men give Margaret a go-over.  They tell her:  "You look and sound like a privileged Conservative wife, and we've already got their vote."  She needs to stop wearing hats and change her hair styling.  Also, her voice is just too high and has no authority about it.  "Methinks the lady doth screech too much."  Margaret tells the men that no mater how much she has tried, she knows she will never really be one of their crowd.  Mr. Reece tells her:  "If I may say so, I think that's your trump card."  He says it's all terribly exciting.  All they need to do is maximize her appeal.  The other man says Margaret has it in her to go the whole distance to become prime minister.  Margaret says a female prime minister in Britain?  It's not possible.  The men say they respectfully disagree.  They want her to stay as she is inside and they will work on the rest, mostly the outside.

Margaret stops wearing hats and she takes vocalizing lessons.  Then they let her start really campaigning hard.  She goes after the trade unions for fomenting too many strikes that have weakened the economy of Great Britain.  She tells her audiences that she wants to put the "Great" back in Great Britain. 

Airey Neave is the name of one of Margaret's staunchest political supporters.  Then one day she sees him leaving the parking area.  A little later she hears a terrible explosion.  Airey dies in a car bomb explosion.  He was Margaret's spokesman on Northern Ireland.  The  National Irish Liberation Army claimed responsibility for the bombing. 

Margaret says that she hopes that they can shake off the shackles of socialism.  She wins election as Prime Minister.  The first woman Prime Minister in the West. 

Margaret goes to see the doctor.  He is concerned that she is still grieving over her husband's death.  Margaret denies that but there are numerous scenes where she is bothered my memories of her husband and she tells him to go away and leave her alone.  At times, she turns on anything that will create noise in the house.   She sees a report on the television about Margaret Thatcher, but she doesn't recognize herself. 

Margaret goes through some tough political times when the country is in a recession.  Her advisors suggest she stop the cuts in expenditures while the economy is in a down-turn.  People can't pay their mortgages and are losing their homes. 

There is rioting in the streets of Britain.  People march in the streets wanting jobs.  A newscaster says:  "We are now one split nation, with a huge gulf dividing the employed from the unemployed."   Strikes lead to violence.  There are the Troubles in Northern Ireland. 

A bomb explodes in her house.  She thought she had lost Denis at the time.

Margaret imagines that she is dancing to "Shall We Dance?"

Argentina takes over the Falkland Islands.  Margaret wants the islands back.  Her adviser Geoffrey tells her that they can't afford a war now. 

The war is on.  The Americans are not too happy about it, but Margaret will not budge.  She gives the order to sink the Argentinean ship the General Belgrano.  A submarine sinks the ship.  The Argentines sink the HMS Sheffield, a Type 42 destroyer, with a French exocet missile.  This is followed by the destruction of other British ships.  Britain lands troops on the Falklands. 

Britain wins the war in the Falklands and there are grand celebrations.

Margaret imagines that Denis teases her about moving up from being the most hated Prime Minister of all time to the nation's darling.  Business starts booming again.  The Berlin Wall collapses. 

Margaret talks about a tax where the less fortunate will pay taxes at the same rate as the super rich.  She says she is tired of all the slackers and those who just take, take, take.  It's the old laissez faire philosophy that Ronald Reagan preached that eventually caused the second worst economic crisis since the Great Depression in the United States.  She also opposes European Union saying she wants to protect the sovereignty of Britain and the integrity of the pound.

She gives Geoffrey a real drubbing in the meeting with her valuable advisor.  She kind of loses it.  She says that since the Lord President has decided to come to the meeting unprepared, she will have to cancel the meeting. 

There is more rioting in the streets.

Geoffrey submits his letter of resignation to the Prime Minister.  The talk is that Geoffrey just couldn't take any more of Margaret's bullying.  His speech in the House of Commons was devastating.  Her ministers are very upset with Margaret's attitudes toward Geoffrey.  Some say she won't be able to survive this. 

Heseltine decides to run for the position of leader of the Conservative party.  Thatcher and Heseltine have to have a run-off election.

The ministers are almost all saying that it's time for Thatcher to step down as Prime Minister.  Denis even tells her:  "Throw in the towel now, love.  Don't let those bastards see you humiliated.  You just won't win, darling."

After eleven and a half years, Margaret hands in her resignation.  Her staff says goodbye to her.  She leaves Number 10 Downing Street. 

As an old woman, Margaret looks through a lot of memorabilia and photos.  She then gets some big black plastic bags and throws  a lot of Denis' clothes inside. As the clothes are removed, Denis is pushed out of her thoughts.  She then shouts to Denis that she is not ready to be alone.  Denis says she will do fine for she has always been on her own. 

In the morning Margaret gets dressed.  Her helper June says she understands that Margaret is going to go to the House of Lords today.  Margaret, says no, she's not going anywhere. 

 

Great acting job by Meryl Streep.  She shows the many dimensions of Margaret Thatcher:  her good qualities and her bad qualities, her strong qualities and her weak qualities.  It seems to me that Margaret Thatcher was a very ambitious, driven person.  Well, she had to be to break through all the sexism of the day to win the top political office in Great Britain.  She has to be acknowledged for her great achievements, foremost among them being the first female prime minister of the nation.  She will forever be honored for that.  But, like Ronald Reagan, she was too conservative  -- too far to the right.  Following the philosophy pushed by Reagan, Reagan's successors have become right wing extremists, racist to the bone and totally unfit for governing the number one military and economic power in the world. 

 

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D.

 

 

Denis Thatcher died in 2003 and Margaret Thatcher died in 2013. 

 

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