7 out of 10
Release Date: 13th November 2015
Director: Nicholas Hytner (The History Boys / Center Stage / Object of Affection / The Crucible (1996) / The Madness of King George III)
Cast: Maggie Smith, Alex Jennings, Jim Broadbent, Frances de la Tour, Roger Allam, Gwen Taylor, Deborah Findlay, Cecilia Noble, David Calder, Pandora Colin, Nicholas Burns, Claire Foy, Stephen Campbell Moore, Russell Tovey, Dermot Crowley, Sacha Dhawan, Andrew Knott, Alan Bennett with Marion Bailey, James Corden and Dominic Cooper
Writer: Alan Bennett
Trailer: THE LADY IN THE VAN
Based on a memoir by Alan Bennett about Mary Shepherd, a homeless woman who lived in a van on his driveway for 15 years. Played here by Alex Jennings (WINGS OF A DOVE) and Maggie Smith (SISTER ACT) it’s a colourful and funny film that’s not all together successful.
First off, it seems mean-spirited to criticise such a charming film about such an uncharming pair but the clever device of using two Alan Bennett’s (one to live and one to write) has been done better in Charlie Kaufman and Spike Jonze’s Adaptation. It’s a cheekie swipe for which the film will take a lot of credit, as many of the audience won’t have seen the latter. The film’s also wildly uneven with Jim Broadbent (THE SENSE OF AN ENDING) popping in to deliver one of his crappest performances in a long time. Elsewhere, we have stock actors playing parts they can essay in their sleep – hello Roger Allam (SPEED RACER) as smarmy creep neighbour number one and Frances de la Tour (RISING DAMP) as good-spirited over-familiar posh bird. Another distraction is a parade of cameos from the cast of director Nicholas Hyntner and Alan Bennett’s last film collaorbation – The History Boys. About six or seven of them pootle on for one scene. And when the film goes all meta at the end with a walk-on by the real Alan Bennett, you’re wondering what it’s all for? Finally, storytelling devices that were used by Fellini or Kiaraostami have crept into the silver pound genre!
Anyway, I’ll stop being a miser now, because I actually found it very funny and enjoyable inspite of its shortcomings. There’s nothing quite so funny as a facetious bit of backchat by Alan Bennett and there’s a fair bit here. No spoilers shall I give but the scene with Marion Bailey’s (MEANTIME) nun was my favourite. It was also sad when it needed to be and even though is was full of annoying story-telling gimmicks, the script and the actors gave the whole film a sinereity rarely felt in films aimed at old biddies (see Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the height of cynical filmmaking).
7 out of 10 – Very well played and welcome return for actor / director partnership Bennett and Hytner. I wish they’d have played the film straight rather than have such a fussy structure. They pull it off on this occassion but only just – because they’re bacon was saved by the two leads – who deserve awards respectively.
Second review from Turd in a Box – Matt Usher below…
WHAT HAVE I SEEN THAT ACTOR IN BEFORE?
- Maggie Smith: Downton Abbey (TV), Second Best Marigold Hotel, My Old Lady, Quartet, Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Harry Potter – 1 to 8, Nanny McPhee 2, Keeping Mum, Ladies In Lavender, Gosford Park, Tea With Mussollini, Washington Square, The First Wives’ Club, Richard III (1995), The Secret Garden, Sister Act 1 & 2, Hook, A Room With a View, A Private Function, The Missionary, California Suite, Death On The Nile, The Prime Of Miss Jean Brodie, Othello (1965)
- Alex Jennings: Denial, Lucky Man (TV), Castles In The Sky, Silk (TV), Belle, Trap For Cinderella, We’ll Take Manhattan, The Disappeared, The Queen, The Wings Of The Dove, War Requiem
- Jim Broadbent: The Legend of Tarzan, Bridget Jones 3, The Sense of an Ending, Eddie The Eagle, War & Peace (TV), Brooklyn, Big Game, Get Santa, Paddington, Postman Pat (voice), The Harry Hill Movie, Closed Circuit, Le Week-End, Filth, Cloud Atlas, The Iron Lady, Arthur Christmas (voice), Another Year, Harry Potter- part 8, Harry Potter- part 6, The Damned United, Young Victoria, Inkheart, Indiana Jones 4, Hot Fuzz, Chronicles Of Narnia- The Lion The Witch and The Wardrobe, Bridget Jones 2, Vera Drake, Vanity Fair, Bright Young Things, Nicholas Nickleby (2002), Gangs Of New York, Iris, Moulin Rouge, Bridget Jones, Little Voice, Topsy Turvy, The Avengers, The Borrowers, Smilla’s Feeling For Snow, The Secret Agent, Rough Magic, Richard III (1995), Princess Caraboo, Bullets Over Broadway, Widow’s Peak, The Crying Game, Enchanted April, Life Is Sweet, Erik The Viking, Vroom, Brazil
- Frances de la Tour: Alice In Wonderland 2, Vicious (TV), Miss You Already, Survivor (2015), Mr Holmes, Vicious (TV), Into The Woods, Trap for Cinderella, Private Peaceful, Hugo, Harry Potter- Parts 4 & 7, Alice In Wonderland (2010), The Book Of Eli, The History Boys, Rising Damp (TV)
- Roger Allam: The Hippopotamus, The Truth Commisioner, Endeavour (TV), Mr Holmes, A Royal Night Out, The Book Thief (voice), Game of Thrones (TV), The Angel’s Share, The Woman In Black, The Iron Lady, Tamara Drewe, V Is For Vendetta, Speed Racer, The Wind That Shakes The Barley, A Cock and Bull Story
- Gwen Taylor: Another Mother’s Son, Coronation Street (TV), Heartbeat (TV), Barbara (TV), Came Out It Rained Went Back In Again, A Bit of a Do (TV), Duty Free (TV)
- Deborah Findlay: Truly Madly Deeply
- David Calder: Queen of the Desert, Rush (2013), Titanic (TV), Teh Mummy 3, Mr In-Between, The King Is Alive, James Bond – The World Is Not Enough, Fairytale, Hollow Reed, American Friends, Defence of the Realm, Widows 2 (TV), Widows (TV)
- Nicholas Burns: War Book, The World’s End, Benidorm (TV), Nathan Barley (TV)
- Claire Foy: Rosewater, Wolf Hall (TV), Vampire Academy, Wreckers, Upstairs/Downstairs (TV), Season Of The Witch
- Stephen Campbell Moore: The Ones Below, Man Up, Johnny English 2, Season Of The Witch, The Bank Job, The History Boys, Bright Young Things
- Russell Tovey: The Hippopotamus, The Pass, Blackwood, Effie Gray, Pride (2014), Muppets Most Wanted, Grabbers, Tower Block, The Pirates! In An Adventure With Scientists (voice), Huge, The History Boys, Being Human (TV)
- Dermot Crowley: Luther (TV), Mrs Brown’s Boys D’Movie, Holy Waters, Bleak House (TV)(1995), James Bond – Octopussy, Star Wars – Return of The Jedi
- Sacha Dhawan: Chuggington (TV) (voice), Utopia (TV), 24 (TV), Last Tango In Halifax (TV), Splintered, Bradford Riots, The History Boys
- Andrew Knott: Spike Island, Sex & Drugs & Rock-n-Roll, In Our Name, The History Boys, Where The Heart Is (TV), Black Beauty (1994), The Secret Garden
- Alan Bennett: Meg & Mog (TV), Telling Tales (TV), Fortunes of War (TV), On The Margin (TV), Talking Heads (dir) (TV), Jackanory (TV)
- Marion Bailey: Mr Turner, Vera Drake, All or Nothing, Nasty Neighbours, Shine On Harvey Moon (TV), Mean Time
- James Corden: The Late Late Show With James Corden (TV), Norm of the North (voice), Kill Your Friends, Into The Woods, One Chance, The Three Musketeers (2011), Telstar, Gulliver’s Travels (2010), Gavin and Stacey (TV), Horne & Corden (TV), Lesbian Vampire Killers, How To Lose Friends and Alienate People, The History Boys, Starter For 10, Pierrepoint, Fat Friends (TV), Teachers (TV), Heartlands, All or Nothing, Whatever Happened To Harold Smith? Twentyfourseven
- Dominic Cooper: Warcraft, Preacher (TV), Miss You Already, Agents of SHIELD (TV), Dracula Untold, Need For Speed, Fleming (TV), Summer In February, My Week With Marilyn, Abraham Lincoln – Vampire Slayer, The Devil’s Double, Captain America, Tamara Drewe, An Education, The Duchess, Mamma Mia!, The Escapist, The History Boys, Starter For 10