Film Review: My Old Lady
An American – no, a New Yorker, with all the barely veiled snark and crankiness-if-denied that the term implies – inherits an apartment in Paris that comes with an unexpected resident.
One of the best films of 2014, with compelling and affecting performances by the no-words-can-say-enough Maggie Smith; the grandiloquent and remarkably caustic Kevin Klein, as usual a standout while understatedly hilarious; a sterling Kristin Scott-Thomas; and a plot that is alone worth the price of entry, as it tweaks the brain and makes one wonder until the last credit rolls, Did they? Were they–? Could it have been? What about...?
In the script, Klein is in Paris but supposedly speaks little French. In reality he has performed entire films in French. Similarly, though he is portraying a down-on-his-luck feisty guy without a home, woman, or excuse, you can see in his smart line readings the Shakespearian thespian, who has won many plaudits for his tragic and comic stylings of the Bard during many a summer in Papp’s Central Park offerings of the great William.
A few plot niggles obtrude, but not if you just swim with the Tennessee Williamsesque quality of the essential plot, which is converted from a stage play. Klein says at one point that he grew up poor, and all he had was the watch and the apartment and some old books when his father kicked the bucket. Yet later in the film, he says he grew up wealthy on Park Avenue, which of course necessitates mucho dinero. And does not accord with threadbare penury. Ma’alesh, as they say – who really cares?
Woodster Allen could be envious of the flamboyantly gorgeous old Parisian wharf, niche, and street scenes. Shimmering in the memory, delicious to revisit. This could have been filmed by one of Woody’s immaculate cinematographers.
Several of us reviewers discussed the finer plot points animatedly after we left the screening.
Truth to tell, with the intensity, delicacy, and kinetics of this story, we would have preferred a more entrancing title than My Old Lady, which is at once too slangy and disrespectful a term for the deferential tale told. It distances the viewer before he even sits down, and as the story develops, one is pestered by the ill-fitting title of this triumphant tale of an elderly woman who is not only nobody’s fool, but deeply intellectual, witty in conversation, and deft in social engineering. The exasperation one might feel, empathizing with Klein’s plight of not being able to wrest control of his father’s singular apartment in Paris, is soon softened and modified to respect for the spirited elderly contractual resident who has some sparkling episodes in her articulate life. Kristen Scott-Thomas, a treasure of an actress seen more often in French films than American or English, is unaffected – so real you recognize how false are the Hollywooddemoiselles of makeup and wardrobe unalloyed with genuineness or affecting emotion.
Director Horovitz is justly honored for many long-running Off-Broadway one-act and longer stage and TV presentations, as well as films past, present, and future, and as the author of more than 50 produced plays, of which several have been translated and performed in as many as 30 languages. Among Horovitz's best-known plays are Line (in its 25th year, Off-Broadway, at the 13th St. Rep Theatre),The Indian Wants the Bronx (which introduced Al Pacino), and a crowd of Obie- and Emmy-winning sole and collaborative successes on big and small screens.
Notwithstanding the title, this engaging mind-candy is a worthy, if early, contender for the Academy Awards.