Connect with us

Arts & Entertainment

Portrait of a ‘Lady’

Streep reliably good in new Thatcher biopic



In her latest cinematic turn, “The Iron Lady,” screen legend and two-time Academy Award winner Meryl Streep moves seamlessly into Number 10 Downing Street as iconic British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. From the opening scenes, she’s unrecognizable as a shaky, old Thatcher going out for milk — totally overlooked and unnoticed by former constituents.

Meryl Streep as Margaret Thatcher in ‘The Iron Lady.’ (Photo courtesy the Weinstein Company)

The scene serves as foreshadowing for the flashback-fueled biopic about one of history’s more formidable females and how her haunted mind recalls the monumental events of her past and her struggle to stay firmly rooted in the present. The film opens today (Friday) in Washington; Landmark — both E Street and Bethesda Row — has it.

A lengthy knowledge of British politics isn’t required to thoroughly enjoy the film, which stirs empathy and respect for the tough and determined Prime Minister, but it can’t hurt. In her declining years, Thatcher relives her marriage to her husband (delightfully portrayed by Jim Broadbent), ascent to major political success and numerous battles against her male counterparts in Parliament. The format of using flashbacks to create a fluid, if not completely chronological, biopic is a tricky one. However, it works here because as Thatcher’s physical and mental decline are apparent, it’s logical that dementia, or at least a deep longing for her illustrious past, would play a role in her aging.

Unlike 2011’s uneven biopic “J. Edgar,” which was also told in a flashback format, “The Iron Lady” gives the feeling of a well-rounded and human portrait of a controversial leader. Even if one disagrees with Thatcher’s policies, the film inspires respect for the determined woman, who rose from a working middle-class background to be the first female Prime Minister of Briton.” J. Edgar,” followed a more traditional flashback format of a retiring official dictating an autobiography filled with embellishments. Late in the film the audience learns of the half-truths and is left with more questions and skepticism rather than any form of insight.

But forget the format. Forget the director. It is Streep who is the film’s anchor, mast and sail. While some critics have bemoaned the storyline and structure, all agree Streep is mesmerizing. There are few actors who could legitimately be compared to Meryl Streep and her performance in “The Iron Lady” is a perfect representation of why. She vanishes into Thatcher’s mannerisms, speech and aura. She never appears to acting or in costume and make up. The transformation of she undergoes is truly unbelievable. Her recent portrayal of Julia Child displayed once again her trademark ability to master speech patterns and accents, which she also nails in this film.

While Thatcher’s persona and impact were larger than life, Streep exercises perfect restraint in bringing the Prime Minister’s greatest moments to the screen. She keeps her teeth far enough away from the scenery as not to turn Maggie into “Mommie Dearest” when tensions rise. Thatcher is known for her outspoken personality and Streep does an impeccable job of conveying that without sacrificing authenticity.

When the final credits roll, the audience is left not with an ideological or chronological picture of a politician, but the snapshots of the life of someone who believed wholeheartedly in what she said and did. “The Iron Lady” leaves one with a curiosity to know more about Margaret Thatcher but not because the film is incomplete but because its subject is masterfully portrayed and presented. Political subject matter almost always proves divisive, but not “The Iron Lady.” A jumble of understanding, empathy and respect is what is created in the wake of the Prime Minister — even if her political views are not in concert with those of audience members.

As the days before the 84th annual Academy Award nominations are announced dwindle, Street is assuredly guaranteed her 18th nomination. Whether she or Viola Davis, who starred in 2011’s massively successful film “The Help,” will take home the top prize remains to be seen. But after seeing both films, one is inclined to believe that Meryl’s mantle might become a bit more crowded by another golden incarnation of Thatcher in February.

Continue Reading
Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


PHOTOS: GMCW Holiday Show

Chorus performs at Lincoln Theatre



(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington performed its “Holiday Show” at Lincoln Theatre on Saturday. The Chorus has performances on Dec. 11 and 12. For tickets and showtimes, visit

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

Continue Reading


PHOTOS: International LGBTQ Leaders Conference opening reception

Politicians and activists from around the world met and mingled at the JW Marriott



Politicians and activists from around the world met and mingled at the JW Marriott. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The LGBTQ Victory Institute held an opening reception for the 2021 International LGBTQ Leaders Conference at the JW Marriott on Thursday.

(Washington Blade photos by Michael Key)

Continue Reading


Meet the husbands and creative partners behind ‘Christmas Angel’

A funny, redemptive world premiere with a diverse cast



Stephen Gregory Smith and Matt Conner with pugs Edgar Allan Pug and Lord Byron.

The Christmas Angel
Dec. 9-19
Creative Cauldron
410 South Maple Avenue
Falls Church, VA 22046
Tickets:  $35. Students $20.
Masks and proof of vaccination are required

“Ours is like a lava lamp,” says composer Matt Conner describing the collaborative creative process he shares with musical writing partner and husband Stephen Gregory Smith. “We move together in motion in a continual ebb and flow.” 

A couple for 23 years, married for eight, and making musicals together for 11, the talented pair’s current offering is “The Christmas Angel,” opening on Dec. 9 at Creative Cauldron in Fairfax. 

A musical adaptation of the same-named 1910 novel by Abbie Farwell Brown, it’s the story of Angelina Terry (Kanysha Williams), a wealthy embittered recluse who learns the lessons of Christmas from a box of old toys that she casts into the street. Also featured in the hour-long one-act are Ryan Sellers as Horton, Angelina’s butler, and Carl Williams who plays her brother. The angel and toys are brought to life by an ensemble of a dozen teens plucked from the company’s musical theater training program. 

Via phone from their home in Arlington, Smith and Conner shared thoughts on their new show and working style. In attendance are pug dogs Edgar Allan Pug and Lord Byron, whom they call Eddie and Byron in public – otherwise “it’s just too much,” says Conner whose ultimate fantasy involves living on a pug farm where he’d write music and present the occasional show.

Rather than finish each other’s sentences, the duo (both Helen Hayes Award winners – Smith for acting and Conner for directing) expound on one another’s thoughts.

While Conner composes the music, Smith writes the book and lyrics, and together they co-direct. “But there’s no end and beginning where my job ends and his begins,” says Smith. “What we do complements each other’s work.”

Still, there are differences. Smith’s approach is focused. He writes pages at night and edits in the morning. Conner’s method is more relaxed, preferring to sit at the keyboard and talk rather than writing things down. But throughout the creative process, there’s never a moment when the project isn’t on their mind. They can be watching TV or buying milk when an exciting idea pops up, says Conner. 

A clever nod to Dickens, the novel is more than just a female “Christmas Carol,” says Smith. And in some spots, he’s beefed up the 55-page book, fleshing out both storyline and characters including the toys whose shabby appearance belies a youthful confidence. 

He adds, “Every holiday season you go to the attic and pull down the box, or boxes in my case, of holiday decorations and it’s all old but it’s new. That’s the nostalgic feeling of toys from the attic that we’re trying to find through the show.”

The music is a combination of traditional carols performed by a hand bell chorus, and original Christmas songs that intentionally sound very familiar. The score includes songs “Don’t Hide Your Light,” “The Sweetest Gift,” and “Yestermore” – the moment when the past, present, and future come together. 

Also, there’s Angelina’s Bah! Humbug! number “Fiddlesticks,” her great renunciation of the holidays. She believes the world a disappointing place to be, and the sooner realized the better. 

Conner and Smith aren’t new to Creative Cauldron. Through the company’s Bold New Works project, the team was commissioned to write five world premiere musicals in just five years. The result was “The Turn of the Screw,” “Monsters of the Villa Diodati,” “Kaleidoscope,” “Witch” and “On Air.”

Judging from some of the titles and their slightly macabre content, it seems the duo was better poised to write for Halloween than Christmas, but nonetheless, they were commissioned. Creative Cauldron’s producing director Laura Connors Hull brought them the obscure yet charming book that surprisingly had never before been reworked for stage or celluloid, and the pair got to work last spring. 

Conner and Smith agree, “The show is a lot of things rolled up into one.”

Not only is it a funny, redemptive world premiere with a diverse cast, but it’s also a story largely unknown to today’s audiences. Additionally, the show boasts intergenerational appeal while holding messages about Christmas, family, and finding light when you’re in a darker place. 

More information about Conner and Smith, including links to their music and popular podcast “The Conner & Smith Show,” can be found on their terrific website at   

Continue Reading

Follow Us @washblade

Sign Up for Blade eBlasts