The Iron Lady & Occupy LA

On December 16, 2011 by Lynn

I promise there are movies I don’t love.  There are movies I leave the theater thinking Eh, whatever.  But it’s that time of year – the months of stellar films hitting theaters one after another, to the point that it becomes almost ridiculous. And so I have a feeling I’ll be writing quite a lot on how brilliant all these different films are. I loved The Iron Lady. Go see it.

Have I mentioned I love living and working in Hollywood?

As a film, The Iron Lady is truly lovely. Told from Margaret Thatcher’s perspective, it reminded me in pieces of The Queen, another stalwart British lady who changed the whirlpool world around her in dramatic and decidedly British fashion.  It’s not a traditional biopic, but I left the theater feeling like I could imagine what it must have been like to be Britain’s first female Prime Minister.

Meryl Streep’s Margaret Thatcher is stunning, as though we were expecting any less from her.  Jim Broadbent’s performance as her long-suffering husband Dennis had very strong echoes of his performance in 2001’s Iris, which is to say brilliant. He has this way of looking at his wife with this deep mix of admiration and frustration, like he’s so angry at her for her spunk and drive, almost like he hates her for it.  But in the same glance, he knows he would be dead without her, and so he’s smiling- still stunned and slightly befuddled that this gorgeous and whip smart woman would so much look in his direction. He’ll fight like hell to hang onto her, and in doing so, they fall in love all over again. All of this emotion in half a second.  This is what Jim Broadbent brings to the screen, and I completely love him for it. I want to have a cup of tea with him one day and just listen to his whole life story. Seriously.

I’m sure I have a vastly different perspective on Margaret Thatcher than someone who lived in England during her time as Prime Minister.

First, I’m American. Second, I wasn’t born when Margaret Thatcher assumed the office of Prime Minister, and I was still too young to remember her by the time she left.  For better or worse, she’s more of a historical figure to me than a contemporary.  But there’s something about her, particularly this iteration of The Iron Lady, something about the way she held herself and fought against everything she didn’t agree with.  But there seems to be a gentle grace about her too, as she fights for the things she does believe in.

Therein lies a great leader.  And one hell of an actress in the indomitable Meryl Streep (who will undoubtedly be adding yet another Oscar nomination to her pantheon, if not taking home the statue itself. She is so overdue…)  But this isn’t a nice, neat little whitewashing of a historical figure, tidied up so we can all laugh and cheer at the end.  She’s broken and snappish and sometimes so focused on her own plans that she completely neglects the real world around her.  She’s real.

The film covers this dark and difficult time in England’s history, when unemployment and general unrest were rampant.  Mrs. Thatcher was fighting an unpopular war for the Falklands, and the country was in the midst of an ever-deepening recession.  There were protests constantly. It felt so familiar…

In theory, everyone watches a movie in a vacuum, without any personal experience to color their perspective of the story they’re watching unfold on screen.

But of course, theory and the real world hardly ever interact identically.  And so, our own experiences shape the way we see the world and the way that we see films.  We bring our own stories to the theater with us, and they manage to meld into the story we’re watching on screen, almost without us being aware of it.  We love films because we’ve been there, because we identify with the characters, because we wish we could do something just like that, because we can’t imagine ever becoming a person like THAT, because that’s just not how we do things.  In every second, we’re comparing the movie to our own lives, as the movie holds up a mirror to our own self.

The other night, I sat up until 2am, glued to my television as the LAPD disbanded the Occupy LA camp.  And tonight, I sat and watched far more violent scenes unfolding before me.  But the passions, and the driving forces were so much the same.  The economy.  Jobs.  Money.  Am I going to have a future?  Are my children?  We’re living in a world frighteningly similar to late-80’s Britain, and I wonder what the movies of 2030 will say about our world today, with our Occupy camps and dreams of a future where we can actually provide for our families and send our children to college without taking out a third mortgage.

Young Margaret Thatcher makes a brilliant statement – Your life must count for something.  Be it professionally or personally, I have to say I completely agree. We weren’t put on this earth to just waste away, consuming and consuming until we’re 100 years old and weathered and spent.  We were meant to live, this beautiful, full, abundant life where we actively choose which direction we head.  We’re meant to spend our life giving ourselves away.  Color me inspired, I think because this world of Occupy camps isn’t all there is.  We’re not trapped into hopelessness.

We can have a future.  It might take work. Hahaha – not might.  It’s going to take a lot of work.  That’s a definitive statement.  It’s going to take sacrifice.

But we are in this together.  And it’s going to be worth it.  As is your $10 at the theater for The Iron Lady.

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