Making the Grades
What would you do if you had the power to enact laws to change your country, carry out your vision of what would make the world a better place, take part in global decisions and leave your mark on history? Now imagine all that is said and done. What would you do for an encore?
In this dramatization of the life of Margaret Thatcher, such is the position in which the former Prime Minister of Great Britain finds herself. Retired from shaping economic reform and commanding armies and navies, the woman who was once dubbed “The Iron Lady” by some frustrated Russian politicians, is now a little soft in the head. No longer in charge of running a nation, she struggles to independently manage her life. Shifting between the past and the present, the once steely stateswoman (played by Meryl Streep) tries to sort out the meaning of her contribution to society.
If you are expecting parliamentary debates and/or depictions of the varied reactions to this controversial leader, The Iron Lady may be a bit of a surprise. Because these things are not the focus of the film, the production summarizes these aspects of her life using actual newsreel footage. Thanks to this inclusion, viewers will witness (or re-witness) many graphic scenes captured during her tenure. While some re-enactments are mixed in, most of what is shown is real, and therefore more disturbing. Expect to see battles between the police and angry strikers/rioters, IRA bombings that result in fires, property damage, injuries and loss of life, as well as bloodied and dead soldiers shown during the Falkland Islands conflict. There is also a brief shot of some topless females celebrating the end of the war.
Instead of following a chronology of these events, the script delves into the reminiscing of a wandering mind that finally has time to ask about spent or misspent opportunities, the proper or improper placement of priorities and whether or not achievements should be celebrated or regretted. Her husband Dennis (Jim Broadbent) and twin children (one played by Olivia Colman) are featured largely in her thoughts.
This non-biographical prospective diminishes the picture’s usefulness as a study of Lady Margaret Thatcher’s political career, but it does offer the audience something else—perhaps something even more important. While few others may be considered one of the 20th century’s most influential women, questioning the purpose of life is universal to the human experience (for both genders). And watching the reflections of this doddering character will likely have you contemplating your own life choices by the time the credits roll.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about The Iron Lady.
Learn more about the real Margret Thatcher here: http://www.margaretthatcher.org/essential/biography.asp
In the movie, Meryl Streep becomes the iconic Margaret Thatcher. How effective are the make-up artists at creating this effect? Does the mimicking of voice and body movements make the impersonation more convincing? How hard do you think it would be to take on this type of acting challenge?
According to the script, what drives Margaret Thatcher to pursue such a hard line throughout her political career? What effect does that have on her colleagues? How does it impact her family? How do her actions influence the way they respond to her?
What kinds of things does Margaret Thatcher consider important? How does she feel about the traditional role of women, especially as it was viewed during the 1950s when she first ran for office? Do you think her feelings have changed any by the time she retires?
What do you think are the most significant contributions you could make to society? At the end of your life, what things will you want to be remembered for?