DVD Release Date: April 10, 2012
Theatrical Release Date: January 13, 2012 (limited)
Rating: PG-13 (for some violent images and brief nudity)  
Genre: Drama, Biopic
Run Time: 105 min.
Director: Phyllida Lloyd
Actors: Meryl Streep, Jim Broadbent, Richard E. Grant, Alexandra Roach, Harry Lloyd, Olivia Colman

There aren’t too many films that extol political conservatism these days, but those views are championed in The Iron Lady. And why shouldn’t they be? Director Phyllida Lloyd’s (Mamma Mia!) biopic showing the ascent of Margaret Thatcher to become Great Britain’s first female prime minister—and her decline in old age—doesn’t shy away from the baldly conservative philosophy that propelled her rise to prominence.

Political conservatives might cheer the film, which offers rousing speeches about succeeding through hard work and about the dangers of dependency on the government. But politics aside, does The Iron Lady succeed as a dramatic film?

The film doesn’t offer an unvarnished portrait of Thatcher. If anything, it leans too strongly on her frailty in old age. Using a framing story set in the present day, Lloyd and screenwriter Abi Morgan (Shame) spend much of the movie depicting an elderly Thatcher (Meryl Streep, It's Complicated) who battles hallucinations, a failing memory and a tendency to think she’s still in charge. Horrified by TV footage of a bombing, Thatcher announces, to no one in particular, that Great Britain “must never, ever, ever give in to terrorists.” She wants to prepare a statement. Her caretakers, who appear to have heard the elderly Thatcher’s proclamations before, politely ignore her demands.

Thatcher’s dead husband, Denis (Jim Broadbent, Arthur Christmas), serves as her ghostly companion in these sequences, making Margaret laugh, giving her advice and generally keeping her company. Thatcher’s only other semi-frequent human companion is her daughter, Carol (Olivia Colman), who has to remind her mother that Denis is dead, and that Carol’s twin brother moved far away long ago.

Extended flashbacks to Margaret’s youth and entrance into politics remind viewers that her path to Number 10 Downing Street wasn’t an easy one. Alexandra Roach plays the young Thatcher, who was a bright student and deep admirer of her father, a local politician from whom she learns her guiding principles about self-determination. The other men in her life are skeptical of Margaret’s ambition, but she plows ahead undaunted, winning the affection of Denis Thatcher (Harry Lloyd, Jane Eyre). In the movie’s strongest bucking of traditional ideas, Margaret tells Denis after he’s just proposed marriage to her that she’s determined to make her life “matter.” She wants something more than housework. “I cannot die washing a teacup,” she tells Denis.