Grantland‘s Mark Harris admires Meryl Streep‘s “old Maggie” acting in The Iron Lady, but he has difficulty with the other two-thirds of the film because it “lets its subject down by insisting that the most — no, the only — interesting thing about Prime Minister Thatcher is that she was a woman in a world of male power.
“There’s a campy scene in Mommie Dearest when the widowed Joan Crawford tells off an all-male Mad Men-era boardroom by bellowing, ‘Don’t fuck with me, fellas! This ain’t my first time at the rodeo!’ That’s a fun idea for a moment, but not for a whole movie. And for a subject as complex as Thatcher, it’s fatal.”
God, I love this moment. Faye Dunaway tapped into being fearsome in a ferocious, bigger-than-life way when she made Network, but this style of acting, for her, reached its ultimate manifestation in this scene.
I was one of the first to see Mommie Dearest in the late summer of 1981. It was an evening showing in Manhattan — at the Paramount headquarters screening room above Columbus Circle — and afterwards I remember sharing an elevator down to the lobby with four or five gay journalists, and how tickled they were by Dunaway’s butch-boss scenes (the afore-mentioned Pepsi Cola boardroom scene plus “no wire hangers EVER!”) Being kinda youngish, I remember putting it together around that time why gay guys feel an affinity with tough women. I also remember realizing that I never wanted to get into any kind of dispute with an angry gay guy…ever.
You don’t tug on Superman’s cape, you don’t spit into the wind, etc. I would rather face a pack of drunken rednecks with baseball bats. Gay guys are wolverines when they get mad. Don’t even think about it.