The early word on Phyllida Lloyd‘s The Iron Lady (Weinstein Co., 12.30), fortified to some extent by that late-summer teaser, was that it had a “light” tone, or that the film itself skirted serious drama. I’m not getting that from the trailer. I’m getting a story about a somewhat older woman who defied and defeated sexist attitudes about her potential.
“That’s all fine,” The Guardian‘s Stuart Jeffries wrote many months ago, “but that narrative trajectory risks skewing the story. This was not just a time of one woman’s assault on a male bastion, but an era of rage about what Thatcher, economy destroyer and warmonger, was doing to Britain.
“This rage was captured in two songs by Elvis Costello from that time — ‘Shipbuilding’ (‘Within weeks they’ll be reopening the shipyards/And notifying the next of kin’) and his pre-obit for Thatcher, ‘Tramp the Dirt Down’ (‘When they finally put you in the ground/I’ll stand on your grave and tramp the dirt down”).
“It will be a shame if The Iron Lady overlooks that deep anger in favor of exclusive focus on Thatcher as a woman triumphing against the odds.
“Lloyd’s film will deal with the 17 days before the Falklands war at a time when Thatcher was deeply unpopular. In 1982, Britain was beset by racially inflected inner-city riots and soaring unemployment, and Labor looked like an electoral dead cert. But war changed Thatcher’s fortunes decisively.
“Did she really need to send a taskforce to the other end of the world to defend British sovereignty? Were 1,000 war dead sacrificed to make her electable? We don’t know yet if the film will tackle these questions.
“Doubtless, though, The Iron Lady will meditate on what Joseph Conrad wrote: ‘Being a woman is a terribly difficult task, since it consists principally in dealing with men.'”