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So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Movie Review - The Lady in the Van

The Lady in the Van (2015)
Starring Maggie Smith, Alex Jennings, Jim Broadbent, Frances De La Tour, Roger Allam, Deborah Findlay, and Gwen Taylor
Directed by Nicholas Hytner

Marketed as a lighthearted comedy, The Lady in the Van is the victim of ill-conceived expectations because while it contains some humorous moments, director Nicholas Hytner's film is much heavier than I expected.  Elder stateswoman Maggie Smith is engagingly crotchety as the title character, but the film is a slog to get through, disappointingly boring as it tells the (mostly true) story of Mary Shepherd who lives in a run-down van on the streets of London.  Moving from street to street, Ms. Shepherd has parked her vehicle on a lovely city road in Camden, but when the government institutes a no street parking edict, young playwright Alan Bennett (Alex Jennings) reluctantly agrees to allow Shepherd to move her van into his driveway.  Little did he realize that his temporary good deed would turn into a fifteen-year squatting by the elderly woman.

Based off Alan Bennett's play, The Lady in the Van vacillates between whimsy (accentuated by a lyrical score) and slight dreariness (highlighted by classical music), but never finds an appropriate balance between the two.  The story also feels repetitive, spanning fifteen years but failing to give the characters a whole lot of growth in that time.  It's a shame, really, because Maggie Smith is enjoyable to watch (albeit in a very similar role to much that she's played over the past decade), but the character of writer Alan Bennett is irritatingly bland (to no fault, really, of the actor portraying him).  The film tries to give Bennett a bit of a creative punch by having two Bennetts onscreen at once -- one being Bennett as a writer and one being Bennett talking to his writer-self -- but this interaction comes off as too much of a creative crutch rather than inherently necessary to the story.  In the end, The Lady in the Van proves to be a disappointment and, even worse, a bore.

The RyMickey Rating:  D+

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