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Film / The Iron Lady

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You know she's not the real Margaret Thatcher because she's smiling.
"Watch out, looking back. Don't dig too deep—you don't know what you might find..."

The Iron Lady is a 2011 Biopic about Margaret Thatcher starring Meryl Streep in an Oscar-winning performance as the eponymous character. The film uses the framework of Thatcher's dementia to look back on the fragments of her life through her increasingly-feeble grip on reality and memory.

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  • Cloud Cuckoo Lander: In her old age, Thatcher is getting a bit loopy. Mostly manifested through the apparent presence of her husband Denis, who actually died several years ago.
  • Commander Contrarian: Thatcher shoots down any criticism to her policies from her opponents and fellow Tories. It eventually backfires after her cabinet just can't take it any more.
  • Death Glare: Thatcher gives an undeserved one to her cabinet just because some ministers are beginning to disagree with her on certain policies.
  • Fatal Flaw: Well to her political career anyway, Maggie's flaw is that she believes herself to be right about everyone, and her ministers aren't. Eventually her cabinet gets fed up with this, which leads to her losing the Premiership.
  • Fake Memories: It's implied that what we're seeing is somewhat coloured through Maggie's rosy lenses.
  • Foreshadowing:
    • In the scene where Denis proposes to Margaret, she exclaims, "I don't want to end life washing up a teacup!" She's doing exactly that in the final scene.
    • Roughly halfway, Geoffrey Howe warns Maggie that she shouldn't test her colleagues' loyalty too far. Eventually after a particularly vicious "Reason You Suck" Speech, Howe resigns which sets off a chain of events that lead to Thatcher's resignation as Prime Minister rather than be humiliated by losing a leadership election.
  • Ghost Memory: Denis.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: The damage Thatcher did to industrial communities is skated over, with the protesters being shown in a fairly unsympathetic light, whilst Michael Foot is supposedly a buffoon. It's somewhat justified by the fact that the majority of the film is composed of Thatcher's own flashbacks of events, so it could easily be a case of Self-Serving Memory.
  • Imaginary Friend: In the present-day segments, Thatcher is accompanied by the illusory figure of her late husband. Jim Broadbent is clearly having the time of his life playing Denis.
  • Important Haircut: As part of Margaret's New Look.
  • Iron Lady: You Don't Say! Even as an old senile woman, talking in private to her doctor, she gives detached speeches about how people spend too much time on their feelings instead of their thoughts.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Maggie gets hit hard with his. Her Cabinet keeps trying to tell that her "Community Charge" is a bad idea because most of the UK's population think it unfair. Maggie responds by giving them a rather malignant and insulting "Reason You Suck" Speech. So when she's eventually challenged for party leadership, they get their payback by withdrawing their support for her thereby forcing her to resign.
  • Never My Fault: After the Falkland Islands are invaded, Thatcher asks why there was no naval presence in the area. Her cabinet replies that the naval presence was reduced in the latest budget cuts...a move Thatcher herself had supported.
  • Never Trust a Trailer: The fact that Thatcher even has dementia isn't even mentioned, despite being one of the film's most central themes.
  • Selective Memory: Maggie's are definitely slanted in her favor.
  • Undying Loyalty: Averted. Howe warns Maggie that she must not test the loyalty of her colleagues too far. Maggie doesn't listen and eventually her cabinet turns on her after being humiliated and having their concerns and opinions shut down once too often.
  • Unreliable Narrator: There are hints that the flashbacks are an example of this—the film (i.e. Thatcher) conveniently glosses over the negative aspects of her rule. And also, young Denis is a Hollywood heartthrob.
  • The Unseen: Mark Thatcher, who is living in South Africa with his wife and children. Part of Maggie's dementia involves her forgetting this.
  • You Are What You Hate: As a young MP, Maggie was frustrated that her opinions and concerns were always shot down by others. But, when she becomes Prime Minister, she does the same, not only to the Labour Opposition but also her own cabinet. It doesn't end well for her.