fri 19/07/2024

My Old Lady | reviews, news & interviews

My Old Lady

My Old Lady

Three fine actors adrift in a highly pictorial Paris

Piano man? Kevin Kline does time in the Marais in `My Old Lady'

An Off Broadway play that largely passed without notice in 2002 is now a movie poised to suffer the same fate, notwithstanding the fact that this starry three-hander marks the film directing debut of the prolific American dramatist Israel Horovitz, at the age of 75.

So it's no surprise that the older generation gets championed in a script (adapted by Horovitz from his stage play) that finds Maggie Smith playing a nonagenarian who, she tells us, is too old for subtlety. In which case, someone should have bitten the bullet and told Horovitz that his film is a talky, contrived and a highly implausible bore.

The waste of a cast that consists more or less entirely of Smith, Kevin Kline, and an unusually shrill and tense-seeming Kristin Scott Thomas seems a particular shame given the collective sparks this trio could surely strike in better, less faux-Ibsenish surroundings. As it is, one admires the visual splendour of a scenario set in and around the Marais district of Paris, at least on such occasions as a stagebound text leaves the maisonette (with garden, bien sûr) to allow a glimpse of life outdoors. Otherwise, it's a matter of patiently sitting it out through multiple revelations, one of which finds poor Dame Maggie falling melodramatically to the floor. Downton Abbey this ain't. 

Kline plays the impoverished Mathias Gold – note the irony of the surname: no subtlety, indeed! – a thrice-divorced writer and onetime drunk who has come to Paris following the death of his father to claim his inheritance in the form of that majestic Marais abode. In fact, hélas, the property is occupied in a kind of sitting tenancy not just by Smith's Chablis-drinking Mathilde (pictured left) but by Scott Thomas as her anxious daughter, Chloé, a character so cruelly conceived by the writer-director that Scott Thomas's very first shot finds her seated on the loo. Early banter soon gives way to familial storm clouds as it is revealed that Mathias's late father in fact knew Mathilde very well. At which point, cue much discussion of the hold that the dead exert over the living, which is where the Ibsen connection comes in. 

Mathilde herself talks of having "only the dead to talk to", while Mathias (note the similarity in the first syllables of both characters' names) talks to his dead pa's grave. Making a belated entrance into proceedings is Chloé, brewing with tensions of her own amid a gathering claustrophobia that makes you yearn for a few more characteres with whom we might engage. As it is, Horovitz's way of dealing with the stage-to-screen problem of widening materal out seems to have been to devise a few smaller roles that can be played by members of his family. (Pictured below: Scott Thomas and Kline)

Of the three stars, Smith perhaps inevitably rules the roost, and not merely because one doesn't expect to see an English acting legend, who will be 80 at year's end, spouting the words "c'est du porno" onscreen. (Sian Phillips took the same role on the New York stage.) As if in obeisance to her gifts, Horovitz has given the actress some would-be witticisms – one of them involving precision and wine as the two secrets to long life – intended presumably to play to her strengths. The actress fields them like the great pro she is, proving in the process that age can't wither Maggie Smith and nor, apparently, can mediocre writing. 

Watch the trailer for My Old Lady overleaf 



One doesn't expect to see an English acting legend spouting the words "c'est du porno" onscreen


Editor Rating: 
Average: 2 (1 vote)

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