Foremost, it needs to be said that the characterization and costumes were quite fantastic, most notably the way in which Streep nailed Thatcher’s expressions and vocal production; and the charming portrayal of all the pin-stripped Tories. Streep, in taking on this role, has made a gladly accepted contribution to the practice of actors playing characters, rather than actors playing themselves.
The structure of the film follows the Reservoir Dogs, Forest Gump format, in which the film begins near to the end, and the audience is told the story through references to previous events. I enjoy this format, but my favorite is the Pulp Fiction format, beginning and ending in the middle. The film regards Thatcher as she lives with dementia, demonstrating a condensed version of her biography as she visits her memories.
This may be because I’m a politics fiend, nevertheless, I thought that the film should have included far more by way of narrative with Thatcher approaching and occupying office, rather than her in her dwelling suffering her unfortunate condition. I may go so far as to say that the latter is superfluous. The viewers are treated to a portrait of Thatcher, having dinner parties and forgetting people’s names and hallucinating about her deceased husband, Denis. I don’t think that it would be a breach of taste if I were to say that I am not interested Thatcher’s condition, I can offer her kind thoughts as I would anyone whose experiences are unpleasant, I’ll gladly donate to a dementia charity, but devoting a great deal of film time for Thatcher with dementia seems poor form. The whole point of Thatcher is that she was a very important Prime Minister, not that she has dementia.
Not only were the scenes with Thatcher in old-age irritating, the film was cut in a way in which the frequent and difficult transitions made me seasick. It was, I assume, assigned a certain length and no more, so due to the indulgence on the ‘Thatcher with dementia’ theme, the ‘Thatcher’s career in politics’ was stripped to a skeleton which was nearly non-functioning.
The rest of the film was very well constructed, especially the parliamentary debates and Michael Foot. The camera work, particularly when the Tories challenged Thatcher over the spending cuts or when she had an audience with the generals, was superb.
I would say, despite this, that the soundtrack was a little sloppy. We received the stirring music which gives the impression of movement during Thatcher’s ‘training’ or some such, which was a little crass. I think that I can retain my political objectivity while I say that a politician who identified the enemy within should not be given a Rocky-style montage during their assent to primacy. At one point, when old-age Thatcher was having trouble with the hallucination, she turned on the radio, so that we heard the finale of the 1812 Overture — did this mean anything? It didn’t, if one is going to choose a piece with that level of popularity, there needs to be a relevant connection.
I think that the presentation of Thatcher over the Falklands was fantastic, especially the obsession which she had; ‘Sink it’ being one of the most effective lines in the film.
The film was divisive in that what I enjoyed of it, I did so greatly, but what I didn’t enjoy was really very tiresome. By my normal metric, it counts as a ‘good film’. Can I expect some kind of director’s cut with more politics and nothing else?
So as the film terminated, Thatcher had chucked out Denis’ clothes and Denis had walked into the light, and the prelude ended with a major chord.
What, no fugue?