Boris Johnson reviews Iron Lady

Boris Johnson reviews Iron Lady: Maggie’s magic came from her contempt for complacent men

Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher

Image via Wikipedia

We wanted the forceful version of Streep doing her incredible Sturm und Drang of the Thatcherama; and it is hard to watch that struggle without sympathising with the protagonist. We see the teenager bravely leaping out in a bombing raid on her father’s shop, to stop the butter being covered with dust. We see her overcome the jeers of other girls and win a place at Oxford. We see her stick it to the ghastly and pompous Dartford Conservative Association in the same way that she faces down all the other useless and objectionable males she meets in her career. She tells the Americans where to get off, when they try to persuade her to abandon the Falklands to Argentinian aggression. She faces down the IRA. She sees the error of the euro long before many others. And time and again she sees off the Tory wets and grandees – such as a magnificently condescending Pip Torrens as Ian Gilmour – who hover around her and mutter, willing to wound but afraid to strike.

Yes, she is eventually felled by the men in grey suits, but by the end Streep has effectively reminded us of what Thatcher was really all about. It wasn’t just me-first, get-rich-quick, Devil-take-the-hindmost exaltation of the values of Essex Man. That was the caricature. Thatcher herself emerges from this film as a far more revolutionary and inspiring figure – because she was a woman. From the very beginning and at all the critical moments you can see that what really actuated Thatcher was a feminine impatience with the cosy, clubby, complacent politics of the post-war consensus – a consensus that was held overwhelmingly between men of a certain age and class. Of course she believed in thrift and hard work and rewards for merit – but a proper understanding of what Thatcher really stood for is vital today.

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  • Jman

    I saw it yesterday and I agree very much with Boris Johnsons critique. Streep is amazing. Surely an Oscar winning performance.

    The movie spent too much time on Thatcher in her old age, struggling with Dementia and not enough on her earlier years, rising through the ranks etc. It barely touched on her relationship with Ronald Reagan. Overall though I think it is very good and well worth seeing.

  • Dr Wang

    Yes, an enjoyable movie, but I think that it was because Thatcher’s story was so powerful that it shone through in spite of Streep’s interpretation. Streep did a good job, but the “anti-conservative” Hollywood politics still bubbled just below the surface – and Streep was the perfect actress to deliver that message.

    Streep will probably get the oscar, but it should go to Margaret Thatcher – in spite of the subtle Hollywood spin, Maggie was still the star!

  • Michael

    I thought it had a very depressing end – the message was old age turns us all into teacup washers, no matter what we didin our lives. So we should accept that, and not live in the past to make ourselves content.

  • Do not waste your money, you see the shots of her at her hight but much of the film is about a old lady. Sad. 

    This ruined the film. Good actor, bad plot.

  • Paul Rain

    The only solid criticism of the factual accuracy of the movie that I’ve seen has concerned the portrayal of Dennis Thatcher. The screenwriter apparently took Private Eye’s “Dear Bill” parodies as gospel. While they were written with a sense of humour- it’s not like basing a biography of a chap who opposes government’s endorsement of taking blokes up the chuff on Andrew Sullivan’s writing- it’s not the most honest portrayal of a self-made millionaire.

  • Alex

    What gets me is the total misrepresentation of Thatcher’s message that is so prevalent and unchallenged. 

    I’ve heard from leftist Poms that UK was some bucolic Middle earth before she came and built her satanic mills.  Just recently I read another leftist blame her for untrammeled immigration, “me first” philosophy and bad manners. 

    All that is BS. 

    Thatcher was a free marketeer but her politics was more than that.  It was a moral philosophy that people should be free to achieve their potential using their talents, not for its own sake, but so they could support their families, be independent citizens who could participate fully in democracy, take responsibility for their lives and generously donate to charity. 

    Unfortunately, Blair and his cronies perverted the message.  Out went the sense of personal responsibility and duty Thatcher believed so strongly; and instead it was just replaced by “you can do anything you want …. even if it requires someone else to pay the cost”. 

    Now the UK wonders why it’s in the gutter!     

    • Paul Rain

      Absolutely right. And while Blair heartily deserves to have bitten a bullet ten years ago, the sad reality is that he will probably keep on ‘earning’ speakers fees for another thirty years.

    • Ploughman

      As I walked the streets of British cities in the 70’s when i I was living there I thought the country was on an irreversible slide into misery and decay.  It was awful.  Yet, when Mrs Thatcher got into power everything changed.  She gave Britain a new direction that revolutionised the country and rescued it from the doom that previous governments had steered it towards.  She did an amazing job and the Conservative Cabinet was stupid not to support her at the end, even though she still had a majority.   She took a moral and principled position, unlike that charlatan, call me Tony,  Blair.
      Britain is starting to follow her policies once again and it will be all the better for it.  But first they have to pay for Tony’s policies,which won’t be pleasant.

  • Bunswalla

    Depends what you expected from the film. I saw it last night and really enjoyed it, especially having been in the UK for 7 of her 10 or so years in power, including during the miners’ strikes when she broke the unions and gave the country the ‘medicine’ it so badly needed. There’s no doubt the Falklands War saved her though.

    The film is basically a love story about Margaret (MT) and Denis (DT), and about the frailty of old age, approaching dementia etc. Streep was brilliant and has Oscar written all over her performance.

    We should never forget that the odds she overcame – woman, daughter of a grocer, highly educated (that’s 3 strikes right there) – and what she rose to become were extraordinary. Even Thatcher believed that Britain would not elect a female Prime Minister in her lifetime. She didn’t just make it, she made a huge difference and I have to agree with Boris’s review. A bravura performance and well worth a look.