Thursday, March 3, 2016

[Review] The Lady in the Van

The legendary Maggie Smith (a lot of people will know her as Professor McGonagall from Harry Potter) stars in The Lady in the Van--a "mostly true story" about an amusingly odd pairing.

Set in Camden Town, London during the 1970s. Alex Jennings plays the stately Alan Bennett (real life author and the writer of this film). In his own driveway, there happens to be a homeless woman living out of her rusty old van. This woman is the eccentric and stubborn Miss Mary Shepherd (Smith). The Lady in the Van revolves around Mary and Alan's unique relationship, as well as Mary's surprisingly poignant and revealing backstory.

It sounds like a vague cliche, but there's a certain set of pleasant, easygoing films with likable lead characters that are often described as "immensely watchable", and this is one of those films. There's a consistent sense of charm here, emphasized by the playful and theatrical musical score. The tone is feathery and comical, while also containing some emotional depth. Maggie Smith's performance is completely terrific. She's lively, vulnerable, mysterious, nuanced, and also very respectful of the subject.

In fact, the film is so light on its feet that, aside from Maggie Smith's greatness and the story's affecting ending, the rest risks being forgettable. Still, if this sounds like you're type of thing, The Lady in the Van is an easy one to recommend, and its cleverness makes sure to get the last laugh.


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