Wednesday, 1 October 2014

LFF 2014:
My Old Lady

Kevin Kline plays a failed writer, recovering alcoholic and triple divorcé who thinks he's inherited the answer to all his money problems when his father leaves him a sprawling Paris apartment in his will. Due to an archaic French property law, however, he actually inherits a 2,400 Euro monthly debt and a plainspoken nonagenarian (Maggie Smith), and the apartment's closets are heaving with skeletons waiting to be reluctantly dragged into the open.

My Old Lady plays a cruel joke on the audience, pretending for a good fifteen minutes or so to be a black comedy in which we expect Kline to come up with half a dozen inventive ways to bump off the elderly thorn in his side. Soon, though, it all gets very sombre and serious: blackmail, extortion and adultery pop their heads up and decades-old family history is raked over in an anguished three-hander between Kline, Smith and a frosty Kristin Scott Thomas as Smith's daughter.

Props to Israel Horovitz for turning his hand to film directing for the first time at the tender age of 75, but the transition of his own play to the big screen adds little more than a handful of shots of the River Seine, and betrays its roots all too obviously. The three leads - all excellent actors - are encouraged to employ broad stage acting rather than the subtlety demanded by film, and Horovitz lacks the confidence to shoot his talent in any way other than that in which a live audience would see them. Kline, Smith and Scott Thomas are always watchable and there's a sliver of dark humour running through the script, but this tale of a flat and an affair is a flat affair.

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