>>> The Lady In The Van

THE LADY IN THE VAN  (Nicholas Hytner )..

THE LADY IN THE VAN  (Nicholas Hytner ). 104 min. Opens Friday (February 5). See listing. 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, as the man living his life, and 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 and a writer so intent on avoiding an emotional life that he has only his alter ego as a partner.

But Mary still dominates: she’s infuriating, sometimes delightful, as when she wheelchairs down a hill,  and Smith is able to make eating a scone a dramatic event.         

See our Q&A with director Nicholas Hytner here and our top 5 Maggie Smith movies here.

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