Kevin Kline, Maggie Smith, and Kristin Scott Thomas are
three of my favorite actors. If you share that opinion, I think you’ll agree
that watching My Old Lady is time
well spent, even though the film leaves something to be desired.
Israel Horovitz makes his directorial debut with this
adaptation of his 2002 play, which starts out with great promise and a
lighthearted tone. It grows more serious as the story unfolds and reveals all
too clearly its origins as a stage piece.
The premise is certainly auspicious. Financially and
emotionally impoverished Kline arrives in Paris to claim his inheritance, a
spacious and desirable apartment, only to find that his father purchased the
place under the terms of a French law that enables 94-year-old Smith to reside there
for the rest of her life (along with daughter Thomas). Kline is desperate,
while Smith is resolute, a literally immovable object who stands in the path of
the American’s hopes and dreams for a fresh start.
This idea could go in any number of directions, and Horovitz
initially mines it for dark-tinged humor, with considerable success. But as the
going gets tougher, and the characters’ backstories are revealed, the tone
becomes somber and life drains from the proceedings.
My Old Lady winds
up a disappointment, but I’m still glad I had the opportunity to watch these
three exemplary performers interact onscreen.