The Iron Lady (2011)

Rated PG-13. Our ratings: V -2; L -1; S/N -3. Running time: 1 hour 45 min.

But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you
are worried and distracted by many things; there is
need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better
part, which will not be taken away from her.”
Luke 10:41-42

Let a woman learn in silence with full submission. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man;she is to keep silent.
1 Timothy 2:11-12

Dennis and Margaret during a moment of triumphant

© 2011 The Weinstein Company

Meryl Streep again proves she is one of the greatest actresses of all time as she loses herself in the role of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. Jim Broadbent plays her loyal husband Dennis, with whose total support she breaks through the entrenched gender barrier to rule during such troubled times that she becomes the object of rage and hatred because of her program of austerity. Although the film follows the usual biopic formula, Ms. Streep’s performance is another of her great ones that you will remember for a long time—and certainly the members of the Academy felt the same way when they awarded Ms. Streep her third Oscar.

The Prime Minister’s story is told in a series of flashbacks as Margaret, her supportive husband Jim with her now only in memory, clears out his clothes for a donation to Oxfam. Her first days in Parliament were filled with insults and slights as she breaks into what has been a Gentleman’s Club. His ghost or memory comments from time to time on events.

The two factors that see her through are her steely determination or perseverance, and the staunch support of her loving husband. Dennis comes across as a husband so secure of his manhood that he does not need to be the dominant party in their marriage. The ups and downs of her career of her rise to the leadership of the Conservative Party and then as Prime Minister are told at times in newsreel fashion, one of the most difficult being her guiding the nation through the war over the Falcon Islands.

Phillidia Lloyd’s might not be a great film, but it certainly contains a great performance. Feminists need not be the only ones pleased by this true story of how the first British PM overcame tremendous odds to lead a tradition-loving nation into a new era. Liberals may blanch at her politics and economic policies, but they should pay due respect to Thatcher as a strong woman overcoming centuries of prejudice.

For Reflection/Discussion

1. What do you think are the primary qualities of Margaret Thatcher’s character? How do these see her through difficult times. How do her wit and humor sustain her?

2. How does the film demonstrate the need for support? How was Dennis the ideal husband for such an ambitious woman? Besides his loyalty, what other qualities does the film reveal in him?

3. How is the Parable of Mary and Martha pertinent to Margaret Thatcher’s story? On which side was British society on when she began her political career? Was it much better in the USA? How is it changed that much now? (Note the demeaning remarks of Rush Limbaugh about the female law student testifying before a Congressional Committee.)

4. How does the filmmaker try to steer clear of judging the policies/politics of Margaret Thatcher? How do you feel about this? Or about those policies? Do you think she was the right person to lead the country during such tumultuous times?

5. What do you make of her opponents’ charges that Thatcher did “immense damage” to her nation’s social fabric and cultural life? Or that she was jingoistic in her war defending the Falkland Islands? (Recall the Archbishop of Canterbury’s public prayer in which he asked for divine forgiveness for what was regarded as an imperialistic war” ?)

6. What do you think of this advice given in the film: “Watch your thoughts for they become words. Watch your words for they become actions. Watch your actions for they become… habits.