July 24, 2021

‘The Iron Lady’ shows Thatcher still divides Brits

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Meryl Streep as “The Iron Lady”

LONDON (AP) — With hairdo, handbag and hubris, she dominated — and divided — Britain for a decade. Now a film about Margaret Thatcher is doing it all over again.

“The Iron Lady” stars Meryl Streep as Britain’s first female prime minister, whose neo-Victorian values and free-market ideology helped transform a battered post-imperial country into an economically dynamic but industrially depleted and increasingly unequal society.

But it’s the film’s focus on the personal, rather than the political, that has made Thatcher’s enemies apprehensive and her allies unhappy.

“The Iron Lady” depicts Thatcher, now 86, as a frail, elderly figure with dementia, holding imaginary conversations with her dead husband Denis (a genial Jim Broadbent) as she looks back on her life as a double outsider — both a woman and a lowly grocer’s daughter in a male-dominated, patrician Conservative Party.

Streep’s eerily evocative, pitch-perfect performance looks likely to earn her a 17th Academy Award nomination and possibly a third acting Oscar. But the intimacy of the movie’s portrait has led some Conservatives to accuse it of being disrespectful, distasteful, even faintly idolatrous. One lawmaker has demanded a parliamentary debate, telling the House of Commons he was disturbed by the film.

“I just wonder why the filmmakers had to go so heavily on the mental illness, the dementia side, when Baroness Thatcher has had a very important life in the politics of this country and the world,” said Conservative legislator Rob Wilson.

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