Meryl Streep, Prime Minister
That said, watching The Iron Lady, you get the feeling that this is a film more about Meryl Streep playing Thatcher, than it is about Thatcher herself. Would the movie have been made without Streep? Who knows. But you know somewhere, a few years ago, some film producers were sitting around and came up with this brilliant high-concept idea. Thankfully, Streep delivers.
The film is told through the eyes of a late-in-life Thatcher, who is struggling with dementia and can't tell the difference between past and present. She also thinks her long-departed husband (Jim Broadbent) is still alive. Through flashbacks, we see Thatcher's rise to power, and how her firm, take-no-prisoners style of leadership did some good for England but also made few friends. Clearly, even in her old age, the price of power still weighs heavily on Thatcher.
The Iron Lady was directed, rather surprisingly, by Phyllida Lloyd, whose last film, the dreadful Mamma Mia!, gave Streep a rare chance to go slumming on screen. The Iron Lady proves that Lloyd may have a future in movies after all. (I guess that's a backhanded way of saying she acquits herself much better here.)
But as compelling as the film may be, it's hard not to be distracted by Streep. The whole time, despite a good performance, she hardly ever disappears into the role, and you're left marveling at how cool it is to see Meryl Streep play Margaret Thatcher. The film, then, comes off a something of a stunt, and it lessens the impact of the story. (I mean, Good God ... even Leonardo DiCaprio, wearing all that obvious makeup, was able to disappear into the role of J. Edgar Hoover in J. Edgar.)
So The Iron Lady proves not to be one of Streep's greatest films, even if she is good in it. But of course she is. Those producers knew what they were doing. I'm giving The Iron Lady a B.