Martin Filler over at the NYRB blog:
[W]e have the 62-year-old Streep in what many critics deem the crowning achievement of her storied 35-year Hollywood career, as Margaret Thatcher in the starring role of Phyllida Lloyd’s The Iron Lady. But when I watched this strange tour de force of Important Acting, I was uncertain whether I was witnessing a tragedy or a farce.
To be sure, there is a certain piquance in Streep, that inveterate vocal chameleon, impersonating a British prime minister whose own altered accent and lowered tonal production were of considerable import in a class-obsessed country where one’s status is instantly pinpointed by telltale speech indicators. Streep-as-Thatcher overenunciates nearly every phrase in the same way the Iron Lady herself did, in contrast to the clipped-and-swallowed speech patterns of the aristocracy. With her flair for mimicry, the actress is clearly aware of such nuances, and many of her line readings here are hilarious. I laughed out loud when she breathily intoned, apropos some draconian Thatcher budget cut, “YES, the med-cine will be HOSH…”
Nonetheless, thoughts of performers other than Thatcher kept popping into my head as I watched Streep’s latest, grimly fascinating turn—the film traces the British leader from her childhood in the northeastern town of Grantham (where we see young Maggie [Alexandra Roach] doughtily protecting her family’s rationed butter during a World War II bombing raid), to her improbable climb to the top of the class-ridden Conservative Party, to her eleven contentious years in power, and finally to her present-day senescence.