The best thing about “The Iron Lady” may be that viewers going into the theater with strong views, pro or con, about its subject, the former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher, are likely to emerge in a state of greater ambivalence, even confusion. Those who know or care little about her will also be confused, but for different reasons.

Let’s stick with the first group for the moment. Nearly anyone who was alive and reading newspapers — or listening to English-language pop music — in the Western world in the 1980s probably has an opinion about Mrs. Thatcher. To the ideological right she was a hero, even more than her friend Ronald Reagan, whereas the left saw her as a monster. There may have been some mixed feelings in the middle, but she herself had little use for such wishy-washiness, reserving special scorn for the “wet” and the “wobbly” on her own side.

Nor, if the film is to be believed — and it is, in its way, a credible enough portrait — did she have much patience for the discussion or display of feelings of any kind. When a doctor asks the aging Thatcher (played with brilliant slyness and sly brilliance by Meryl Streep) how she is feeling, he is answered with an impromptu lecture on the over-emotionalism of modern culture and a stout defense of the supreme importance of thinking. Ideas are what matter, she insists, and I suspect that a great many people of various ages and political inclinations would agree.

Continue reading in The New York Times



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