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Posts Tagged ‘Dame Maggie Smith’

The Lady In The Van”  (2015)  —  movie review
Well, last night the wife and I thought we’d enjoy a little British comedy starring Dame Margaret (“Maggie”) Smith starring in “The Lady In The Van“.  The movie tells the (mostly) true story of Miss Mary Shepherd, an eccentric homeless woman whom playwright Alan Bennett befriended in the 1970s.  He allows her temporarily to park her Bedford van in the driveway of his Camden home.  She ends up staying there for 15 years.  As the movie progresses, Bennett learns Miss Shepherd is really Margaret Fairchild, a former gifted pupil of a famous pianist.  She played classic music (piano) in a famous concert, tried to become a nun, was committed to a mental institution by her brother, escaped, then had an accident when her van was hit by a motorcyclist (who dies).  She believed herself to blame, and there after lived in fear of arrest.  At the very least, she was guilty of fleeing the scene of fatal auto accident.
Alex Jennings plays Alan Bennett and he does it in a kind of split personality role where he frequently appears as two parts of himself at the same time.  One seems to be “the writer” and the other seems to be “the normal person”.  At least, that is what I assume as this duality is never clearly explained in the film.  In the end, it is (not) clear this movie is, in fact, about him, and not about the lady, at all.  This is in spite of the title.  (My wife, disagrees.  She felt the movie was clearly about the lady.)
The movie is one of those “classically” unfunny comedies the British are famous for.  There was no laughter at our house – an occasional smile – mostly smirks.  That’s not to say Smith and Jennings aren’t very good in their respective roles.  It’s just that, except for a few one-liners and ripostes, the movie is entertaining, but not funny.
Final recommendation: moderate.  The acting is very good, but the movie is confusing.  Maybe it needs a second or third viewing.  The problem is I’m not sure I feel it is worth that much trouble or effort.  Somewhat amusing, in a British kind of way…
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On This Day In:
2015 Quality Government
A Handful Of Flics
2014 Just Another Brick From The Wall
2013 Artistic Demands
2012 Foundations
2011 Are We Devouring Yet?
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Last night, Hil and I watched (actually re-watched) “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” (2011).  The movie is about a group of seven retired (elderly) Brits who decide to move to India to retire and live out the rest of their days.  Well, actually, it’s only six.  One of the pensioners (Dame Maggie Smith’s character) is actually only going to India for a hip replacement.
The hotel owner / manager Sonny Kapoor is played by Dev Patel.  His dream is to take a falling down hotel which his father owned and turn it into a modern hotel to “out-source” old age to foreigners.  The business concept is in-fact quite viable as my wife has a good friend who knows two colleagues who have done just this very thing (retired to India) and I have a good friend who spends six months of every year living in the Philippines.  The fact is, if you can stand the climate and the culture, it is quite feasible to leave the United States to live out your retirement years in relative comfort in a “poorer” part of the world where your currency (retirement pension) buys more.
The cast of this movie is exceptional.  The movie is a lightly comedic drama.  That is, it is meant to convey a number of ideas about “finding one’s self” in old age, by being willing to take chances and start over in a new place.  As such, it is a “fairy tale” as much as a pure drama.  The comedy comes in from the “normal” course of cultural clashes the retirees experience and there is a particularly funny set piece involving the girlfriend of the hotel manager, his mother and one of the guests.
If you enjoyed “The King’s Speech” or “Quartet“, you’ll almost certainly enjoy this film.  I certainly did.  Final recommendation: Highly Recommended!
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On This Day In:
2014 Friends
2013 Learning Bitter
2012 Remembrance, Minstrels & Going Off To War
May I Have More Happiness, Please?
2011 There Is No God, But God
2010 Another Running Book…

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