I am giving this movie 1 out of 4 stars. Just about my lowest rating. However, I still advise you to see the movie. I will explain why.
I gave this movie one star because of Meryl Streep. Otherwise it would have gotten zero. Some actors transcend even the worst of movies. This movie is not horrifically bad, but...if not for her I would advise you to skip it.
Lets get straight to the point. It was extremely poorly written. The direction was awful. It was disjointed and very hard to watch. It focused on the wrong things, things the viewer is not really interested in.
It failed on so many levels. It could have been a very great movie. It had all the right elements.
A strong central character. A look at history that most of us lived through but really didn't know. An insiders look at a world we rarely get to see. A story of triumph over very significant obstacles. All of those things make great movies. Sorry, CAN make great movies.
If done poorly, they can also turn into bad movies. This is a bad movie, No doubt about that.
My main beef with the movie is the direction. The director (and possibly the screenwriter) has chosen a tactic that a lot use these days. Start at the end, then go back to the complete start, then jump back and forth throughout the whole film and then end up at the end again.
The film begins with an elderly Thatcher buying milk unrecognized by other customers and walking back from the shop alone. Over the course of three days we see her struggle with dementia and with the lack of power that comes with old age. This is a theme they used throughout the film. I think the consensus of most is we don't really care that she is old and has dementia. That isn't the story they needed to tell, nor one most are interested in seeing. It was the key flaw in the film.
Below, from Wikipedia
The Mail on Sunday reported in August 2011 that some viewers invited to a test screening of the unfinished film were concerned at the film’s depiction of Margaret Thatcher’s frail health in recent years. This view was also shared in the media subsequent to the film's release. The Daily Telegraph reported in January 2012 that "it is impossible not to be disturbed by her depiction of Lady Thatcher’s decline into dementia" as part of an article that was headlined: "The Iron Lady reflects society’s insensitive attitude towards dementia sufferers." Roger Ebert gave the film two stars out of four, and felt that "it's all dressed up with nowhere to go."
I saw a movie that did just that called The Debt starring Helen Mirron. Possibly as good an actress as Streep, but in a much better movie. In that movie however, the direction was superb and the writing was clearly well thought out and polished. It did jump around a lot just as Iron Lady did, but they made it work.
Of course, the master of that is Quintin Tarantino. Pulp Fiction is the gold standard of that style, and he did it to perfection. While it seems easy to do so, it is not. It is extremely difficult and those that try to copy this popular style mostly fail. I would say they fail because they do it for effect, not because it seems the right thing to do. And it comes off that way.
Meryl Streep is such a good actress that you forget that she is playing the character. She is that good. You really thought you were watching Margaret Thatcher in the moment, not from a history perspective. I expect nothing less of her, and she delivers that every time.
David Gritten at The Telegraph commented; "Awards should be coming Streep's way; yet her brilliance rather overshadows the film itself."
Even though I give it one star, I still say see the film just to see her perform. But if you are not a big fan of hers and her work, skip this poorly made film.
Critic Baz Bamigboye of the Daily Mail wrote: "Only an actress of Streep's stature could possibly capture Thatcher's essence and bring it to the screen. It's a performance of towering proportions that sets a new benchmark for acting."