Katie May Ruscoe and I went to The Iron Lady recently and in between losing our shit over the War Horse trailer and subsequently being told we "had no respect for the atrocities of war" we did watch the film and thus decided to review it, together, in conversation.
Courtney: So, I can't help but start with the fact that we almost had to leave because we lost our shit after the War Horse trailer screened. Hows about that reflective horse-eye and dramatic red sunset?
Katie: Ha! I hope you're including the trailer (and this)...it has to be done. I usually feel bad instantly dismissing someone's hard work but, hey, it's Spielberg so whatever: it looks so bad that I'm yet to be convinced it's not some sort of Hot Shots-style spoof. That still doesn't excuse your DISGRACEFUL behaviour though, Courtney. Have some damn respect for the War....this is why people hate our generation.
Courtney: He's nominated for an Academy Award for Best Director Katie! If that isn't
confirmation War Horse is for real, I don't know what is. THE ACADEMY DOESN'T LIE!
After the brilliance of War Horse, however, we got to watch an actual feature. What are your initial thoughts on The Iron Lady? Where to start? The plot? The acting? Jim Broadbent? Blue suits?!
Katie: I guess we should get the plot out of the way first so we can get to the more important stuff like how her impeccable nail game made me run out and get acrylics the very next day. Margaret Thatcher is viewed by a particular generation as being either stone cold bitch or a National hero, so I think the movie was definitely going for more of a "human interest" sort of vibe - Thatcher the plucky shopkeeper's daughter, Thatcher the wife and mother, Thatcher the feminist icon or whatever.
As we discussed immediately after, I think the film was geared towards those who lived during the Thatcher years and are already very much aware of the political intricacies of the time (of that target audience I will say that there were definitely a few Werther's Originals being passed around during our screening), and as such the film was more of a "behind the scenes" effort that kind of just brushed on a bit of everything.
I should have finished with a question. So, ahh, what do you think? I've read a few reviews saying the writing and plot didn't do her justice.
Courtney: Yeah it was obviously all about The Woman Behind The Politics. Considering
we're both politically minded and weren't as alive as some others in the audience at the time of her reign I think we can agree we both would have preferred more policy. In saying that I had a vague idea of the cornerstones of her time in power and the actual news footage from the riots and the Falklands War provided at least some serious alternative (and some seriously squeamish moments) to all of the flash backs and hallucinations.
Speaking of hallucinations: HOW CUTE IS JIM BROADBENT? And what was your favourite Thatcher age? I think I preferred the Young Lover period more than the Ageing Crazy period because I felt it gave me a better insight into her personality. I wanted to see her interact with people before she was senile! At an age I can relate to! The outfits were also much better in the fifties than in the eighties.
Thoughts? Thatcher at 30 or Thatcher at 80?
Katie: The hallucinations were weird to me - I'm pretty sure any senility has never been confirmed, let alone to the level that is depicted in the film. So the writers just, what, speculated that she hallucinates about her dead husband? Given that she's, you know, still alive it seemed kind of graceless. The use of flashback narrative was a bit hammy at times too, just seemed like they took the easy route ("ahh, fuck it; let's just stick in another flashback") Jim Broadbent though - Key-uuuuute alright. I co-sign your thoughts on the Young Lover period also, although she did seem a bit annoying - like she'd
be a bit of a buzzkill at parties. I did enjoy the costume design too. I'm really big on the whole "put together" look of crepe suits/set hair/statement earrings/impeccable make-up (probably because it's so far removed from my own capabilities and patience that it's actually a fantasy look to me) and the film really delivered in this area. I particularly loved
the bejewelled gown she wore in that scene where verbally tore up those male members of cabinet.
Incidentally, while researching for this thorough and culturally important review I came across this, which is a whole essay on Thatcher's wardrobe and its role in her career. In case anyone cares to get into that. She evidently loved her some blue - I'm assuming due to it being the colour of the Conservative party - and that was made abundantly clear in shots of her wardrobe, her literal wardrobe in her room. Speaking of, I want to try and get into some symbolism but to be honest I wasn't really paying attention as I think that years of English class at high school and uni really beat the interest out of me. I did notice that in the opening scene she complains about the price of milk - a subtle dig at her famous scrapping of free milk in school, perhaps? Did you pick anything up?
Courtney: You know what, I think the only thing I picked up - and the thing anyone watching who wasn't colour blind would have picked up - was the blue suit = Conservatism and Coldness. She was also rather attached to her double strand of pearls which represented her children but were also perhaps symbolic of something political because they were mentioned so frequently? I guess pearl necklaces (oh no you didn't!) have undertones of their own, anyway. But considering she did all the aforementioned in like, real life, they probably don't really count as filmic symbolism.
Like you, studying the secondary meaning of scenes from Heavenly Creatures in fifth form made me drowsy. THEY KILLED THEIR MOTHER! ENOUGH! Although, in regards to outfits, I did notice that she actually had three alternate wardrobe palettes. As The Young Lover (and you're right, she would be a total drain at parties for most people but you know how I love me a good 'debate') she literally wears nothing except for blue, UP until she is Prime Minister at which point she starts cranking out some exceptional form fitting pinstripe maroon skirt-suits, moving into later life when the burgundy literally fades - like her loss of power - woah woah! - into light brown and beige. What does it all mean? I kind of feel like her transition from blue to burgundy perhaps suggests her loss of control of the Conservative party Cabinet and the 'muddying' of her ideas, but perhaps (read: it definitely is) baby blue is just less flattering as one ages?
As for having any emotional response to the film, you mention Jim Broadbent, and thank god you did. I had a total crush on the young Mr. Thatcher because he is a raging babe who falls in love with an extremely strong willed female, something I happen to find endearing. Plus he wears great suits! Plus he buys her fish and chips and they dance and it's cute! I love the dead Jim Broadbent too, but - and I never thought I'd say this about him, he's Horace Slughorn! - you're right, the flashbacks were so tiresome and so obvious I wanted to tell him and all his charming self-deprecation to get the hell out of Purgatory.
Last area of contention: Meryl Streep's performance. Basically if she hadn't given what she did this would have been a straight-to-DVD stinker. There. Straight-to-DVD. And I LOVE period dramas!
Katie: Oooh,I hadn't noticed that the wardrobe progression but it makes sense now that you've pointed it out. I'm only familiar with the NCEA method of grading so I reckon you'd be nudging towards Excellence with that interpretation. I also agree that young Denis was quite the babe - very much a playful foil to Margaret's more serious personality. Let's not forget that they washed down the fish and chips with a hip flask of whiskey! And they drank it out of teacups, swoon! Don't you wish boys still dressed like that also?
You know what? I've been thinking about my overall thoughts on the film and that straight to DVD movie analogy is EXACTLY right. That or TV movie. Montana Sunday Theatre game proper. Meryl Streep definitely takes The Iron lady from average to really quite good and if Sandra Bullock can win an Oscar for what literally WAS a made-for-TV movie (The Blindside) then Streep
missing out on Best Actress will see me lose all faith in the Academy (just joking - I lost all faith when D-Caps first missed out in '94. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride)
Well Courtney, it's been real. See you at War Horse, I can't wait!