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.