The Lady in the Van

THE LADY ARRIVES. THE LADY CHARMS. THE LADY STAYS.

In the 1970s, playwright Alan Bennett (Alex Jennings) agrees to let an eccentric, homeless woman (Maggie Smith) park her van in his driveway for a while; she ends up staying there for 15 years. Whenever Nicholas Hytner and Bennett are working on something together, the results tend to be worthwhile and this is no exception. It’s a humorous story that borrows liberally from Bennett’s personal life and that of the homeless woman, who had an intriguing past. Funny and playful, with Jennings playing two versions of Bennett: his real self and his writer self. He’s delightful and so is Smith as the lady in the van who’s desperately trying to forget her trauma.

2015-Britain. 104 min. Color. Produced by Nicholas Hytner, Damian Jones, Kevin Loader. Directed by Nicholas Hytner. Screenplay, Play: Alan Bennett. Cast: Maggie Smith (Mary Shepherd/Margaret Fairchild), Alex Jennings (Alan Bennett), Roger Allam (Rufus), Clare Hammond, Deborah Findlay, Gwen Taylor… Jim Broadbent, Claire Foy.

Trivia: Filmed at Bennett’s actual home where everything took place.

Last word: “[Filming two versions of Alan] wouldn’t necessarily have come immediately to mind if it had been a film before it had been a play. But to me it carries a lot of the particularity of the story, and it certainly carries a lot of the way Alan sees himself, because he knows himself to be both supine and ruthless. The supine, passive Alan is the one who allows himself to be pushed around by this magnificently cantankerous, unbending old lady and who allows himself to be patronised by the neighbours. The ruthless one is the one that’s always standing to one side, wondering how he can turn it into something, how he can exploit what’s happening to him for his own literary or dramatic purposes.” (Hytner, Reader’s Digest)

 

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