Variety‘s Dave McNary is reporting that the Weinstein Co. has acquired U.S. distribution rights to The Iron Lady, the Margaret Thatcher biopic directed by Phyllida Lloyd and starring Meryl Streep. The intention is to release it later this year and — count on it — mount a front-and-center Best Actress campaign for Streep.

The main Lady issue concerns the one-two combo of director Lloyd, whose handling of Mamma Mia! makes her seem an unlikely provider of a presumably solemn-minded drama about Thatcher’s tough times at 10 Downing Street, and Iron

Lady rewriter Abi Morgan, whose description of herself as an example of “Thatcher youth” suggests that she and Lloyd may be looking to soften or at least emotionalize their portrait of Thatcher.

The question is whether their film will ultimately be seen as Academy-quality, which of course would push Streep into front-runner status, or perhaps as a bit too Thatcher-friendly by the British press, which could result in a backlash.

If the film’s rep becomes that of a good-enough drama that is primarily a forum for a tour de force Streep performance, then who knows? It may be that the ultimate function of The Iron Lady will be to warm up Academy voters so that Streep’s sure-to-be-powerhouse performance as Violet Weston in John WellsAugust: Osage County, which the Weinstein Co,. is planning to release in 2012, becomes an unstoppable Oscar force.

Short version: Streep wins for The Iron Lady in February 2012 and August: Osage County in February 2013, or two years in a row. Or she wins for Lady but not for Osage because of the “Meryl again?” factor. Or not for Lady because the movie might not be good enough but the acclaim for her Thatcher performance results in a lock-down, don’t-even-think-about-not-giving-her-the-Oscar win for Osage. I’m figuring it’s gotta be one of these three.