July 07, 2011 at 02:57 PM EDT

There’s a story about Fred Astaire during one of his first auditions for studio execs. Their terse comments went as follows: “Can’t act. Slightly bald. Also dances.” The first glimpses of Margaret Thatcher in the biopic The Iron Lady have a similar feeling.

We don’t see the indomitable Thatcher for a full 34 seconds of the minute-long trailer as advisers dissect her, demand she abandon her hat and signature pearls, and tell her she needs to lower her voice because it lacks authority. The message is simple: To pull apart someone like Thatcher and treat her like any other politician — a problem to be fixed — is a fool’s errand. And the minute Streep, as Thatcher, comes on the screen, it’s apparent who the fools are.

Streep displays her usual brilliant balance, delivering Thatcher’s reply with a mix of fierceness and humor that have become the actress’ trademark. After this brief look into Thatcher’s world in 1979, just before she became the U.K.’s first female prime minister, we see flashes of what would become her ascension to global icon status.

Set to release in the U.S. on Dec. 16 by Oscar heavies The Weinstein Company, the film is already garnering buzz for the 16-time Academy Award nominee, who — gasp! — hasn’t won a trophy since 1983. It also stars fellow Oscar-winner Jim Broadbent, Olivia Coleman, and Richard E. Grant.

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