My hopes for this biopic of Margaret Thatcher dimmed when I learned that the director was Phyllida Lloyd, perpetrator of Mamma Mia! But the other two principals—star Meryl Streep and screenwriter Abi Morgan (Shame, the BBC series The Hour)—deliver the goods so decisively that the movie is worth seeing. Morgan defuses whatever lingering spite one might harbor for the heartless prime minister by framing the movie in the present day and showing Thatcher as a sad, foggy old woman, pining for the past and consulting periodically with the ghost of her chipper husband, Denis (Jim Broadbent). This conceit works precisely because Thatcher's popular appeal was so deeply rooted in nostalgia for the days of empire, and Streep, no fan of Thatcher, nicely undercuts the poignancy of her current condition with flashbacks that reveal her brittle arrogance in office.
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