An elderly Margaret Thatcher talks to the imagined presence of her recently deceased husband as she struggles to come to terms with his death while scenes from her past life, from girlhood to British prime minister, intervene.
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Elderly and a virtual prisoner in her own home due to her concerned staff and daughter Carol, Margaret Thatcher, Britain's first woman prime minister, looks back on her life as she clears out her late husband Denis's clothes for the Oxfam shop. Denis is seen as being her rock as she first enters parliament and then runs for the leadership of the Conservative Party, culminating in her eventual premiereship. Now his ghost joins her to comment on her successes and failures, sometimes to her annoyance, generally to her comfort until ultimately, as the clothes are sent to the charity shop, Denis departs from Margaret's life forever. Written by
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I Whistle a Happy Tune
(Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II)
Published by Williamson Music, an Imagem Company
Recording taken from the original motion picture "The King and I"
Licensed courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation See more »
Just back from a screening in Hollywood, and this is I'm afraid something of a disappointment. Come Oscar time, I suspect her peers will throw the award into the much-loved Streep's lap, but the problem with a biopic is that however skilled the actor - great, even, in Streep's case - there is a tricky, unavoidable element of impersonation that inevitably creeps in and begins to dominate the characterization. It's particularly so in the scenes with Thatcher's Cabinet members, during which I also found myself distractedly thinking "Oh look, there's Mike Pennington, just like Michael Foot! Isn't Richard E. Grant the living double of Heseltine, and what about Anthony Head, the spitting image of Geoffrey Howe!?" And indeed, Spitting Image, the brilliant UK puppet satire show, often managed a more precise evocation of individual politicians than anyone here is achieving. Perhaps part of my irritation stems from the fact that I lived through the Thatcher era and all the nightmare years of strikes, garbage in the streets and rolling blackouts that preceded her and paved the way for her disciplined and dominating approach. She was like a mother-figure to the United Kingdom, telling the country it was time to clean up after itself and put its toys away (and indeed she often seemed, literally, that patronizing). She also did immense damage to the UK, to its cultural life and the social fabric she so brutally unraveled, witness her famous claim "there is no such thing as society", the mantra of the era's ethos and the rationalization of greed. The consequences of her tenancy of No 10 Downing Street were in part what persuaded me to emigrate. Her brutal order, during the Falklands conflict, to sink the Belgrano (which had been steaming speedily away from the conflict zone) seemed to me then, as it does now, a callous and indefensible action. She papered it over with obnoxious displays of public piety and jingoism ("Rejoice! Rejoice!") and if I were a believer in such things I'd hope she spends a long long time in Hades for the Falklands war. The movie effectively skitters over all this, ignores her de-regulation of banking, sets one rather brief scene at the Brighton hotel bombing minus the presence of Norman Tebbit and his unfortunate wife's awful injuries, makes no mention of Arthur Scargill (relying on archive film of the miner's protests and the subsequent riots which galvanized the nation), and uses the Poll Tax conflict to suggest she was by then well advanced into a mental instability which marked the beginning of the end of her reign. Her daughter Carol appears as a sort of goofy, endearing helpmate (no mention of Carol's quiet disappearance from public life after her throwaway racism leaked to the public) and her son Mark, a nasty piece of work by any measure, is merely a distant presence on the phone from South Africa - no mention here of his involvement in an attempted coup in Africa. Most annoying is the movie's framing device - Thatcher is a doddering old lady beset by Alzheimer's (as indeed she is) and the memories which surface through her confusion form the body of the film. Alas, skilled as J. Roy Helland's makeup job is, the aged Thatcher kept reminding me of Catherine Tate's foul-mouthed Granny comedy routine, and the thought just wouldn't go away. Thatcher was a giant presence in the global arena and literally changed the world. This oddly unaffecting film, prone to sentimentalizing its subject (which normally is a very un-British approach), is essentially a virtuoso star turn and is not the biopic Thatcher warrants, demands, and deserves.
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