I've had a love-hate relationship with Meryl Streep for nearly 35 years now. I liked her in The Deer Hunter, where she played a part that turned out to be remarkably true to real life, and also in Kramer vs Kramer, but the love began to cool when she went into her "accents" phase, first with Sophie's Choice and then Out of Africa, which I have to confess I've never been able to bring myself to watch, just in case I got myself into a right old Baltic State. (
… Poland … Denmark Baltic Sea? Oh, please yourselves!)
Recently, she's teamed up twice with British director Phyllida Lloyd, first in MammaMia! – enough said – and then in Iron Lady, the somewhat controversial biopic of the fading, but still living, Margaret Thatcher.
I must say I was pleasantly surprised by the grand old lady of film's performance and by the film itself, which is remarkably even-handed, especially when set against two films that have eviscerated the reptilian Tony Blair, The Queen and The Special Relationship.
The central conceit cum organising device is that Maggie has hallucinations (or are they just mental images recovered from the hard drive of her Alzheimer’s ravaged memory bank?) of her hubby of fifty-odd years, Denis. This stratagem enables us both to see a lot of Jim Broadbent goofing it up as what Denis would have looked like if he had been six inches taller and quite a lot fatter in the face and to take a family's eye view on her life.
She doesn't come out of this fly-on-the wall examination particularly well (but then I doubt many of us would, especially if we were premier of a top ten nation) being accused of selfishness and ambition by husband and daughter (Carol – played as frumpy hackette with a lisp) alike. A bit like the Norwegian Blue, Maggie is pining, but not for the Northern fjords. Instead, as one possessed of a self-confessed preference for men, she is pining for
, where her rascally son Mark is attempting to
hide from his creditors and other enemies. South Africa
Meanwhile, back at Number Ten, Maggie is failing to heed the warning of Sir Geoffrey Howe, the man who spent the best part of his real political life trying to get over Dennis Healey's damming assessment that being attacked by the former QC was like being "savaged by a dead sheep".
When she first comes into office, the script has Geoffrey warning Maggie that she can't push her cabinet members' loyalty too far. Nearly twelve years on, and the film's climactic scene has Maggie adjourning a cabinet meeting after humiliating her benighted number two because he has spelt committee with only one "t".
Geoffrey has had the sand kicked in his face for the last time and decides to bring the iron lady down with a cracking cricketing metaphor and betake himself to the House of Lords where he can moulder away behind those Joe 90 glasses.