THE LADY IN THE VAN SPECIAL PRESENTATIONS D: Nicholas.
THE LADY IN THE VAN
SPECIAL PRESENTATIONS D: Nicholas Hytner 104 min. UK. Sep 14, 8 pm Scotiabank 12. See listings. Rating: NNNN
How many elderly women can Maggie Smith play without repeating herself? A lot, obviously. Her characterization of the homeless Mary in Nicholas Hytner’s adaptation of Alan Bennett’s play is fresh and always moving.
Alex Jennings plays Bennett – the work is based on his memoir – two times over, once as the man living his life, the other as the author writing about it. This is a piece as much about a writer’s ethics as it is about a high-born woman reduced to living in a van in Bennett’s driveway.
Along the way, the film looks at ambivalence, timidity – Mary finagles her way onto the playwright’s property in amusing ways – and a man so intent on avoiding an emotional life that he has only his alter ego as a partner.
But Mary still dominates: infuriating, sometimes delightful – as when she wheelchairs down a hill – and strangely entitled.
It helps that Smith can make eating a scone into a dramatic event.