My Old Lady

Photo courtesy of Cohen Media

“My Old Lady” (2014)

Mathias (Kevin Kline) is a 57-year-old New Yorker, who has barely enough money in his bank account to buy a ticket to Paris. He thinks his ship has finally come in, having inherited a large apartment near the “Left Bank” from his estranged father. He arrives at the apartment and meets Mathilde (Maggie Smith), a 94-year-old woman who has lived in the apartment since her 20’s. To his shock and horror, Mathias discovers that while he technically owns the apartment, he cannot sell it. It seems that his father bought the apartment under what the French call a viager equity, a system where you put a downpayment on the building and then pay a monthly stipend to the resident. This payment system goes on until the resident dies or willfully moves out.

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My Old Lady

Photo courtesy of Cohen Media

Complicating things even more is the daughter of Mathilde, Chloe (Kristin Scott Thomas) who takes an instant dislike for Mathias. Rightly so, Chloe is convinced that Mathias is hell bent on selling the apartment by any means necessary. In fact, Mathias has already lined up a buyer for the apartment, a businessman who wants to turn the whole apartment complex into a hotel. Can Mathias figure a way to get Mathilde to agree to the sale or will he have to go back to America without his windfall?

My Old Lady

Photo courtesy of Cohen Media

The cast of this film is outstanding with Kevin Kline leading the way as the troubled, alcoholic Mathias. Kline gives the role his all. He has to make some very long winded speeches; several are when he is drunk. It is to Kline’s credit and vast talent that he is able to portray someone who isn’t nice and very self absorbed and still make them likable. Under someone with less skill and charisma, the part of Mathias would be the villain. Instead, Kline brings to the screen; a flawed, hurt individual that just might come out of this experience as a better person. Maggie Smith, who as Mathilde, is her usual brilliant self, slowly allowing the hard shell of her character to melt away as the film reveals more and more about her past life. As Chloe, Kristin Scott Thomas plays the sparring partner of Kline’s character Mathias, trying at every turn to stop him from selling the apartment. Thomas is flawless as the equally hurt and messed up Chloe, who sees Mathias as someone who could bring her world to a screeching halt. Thomas plays off Kline with a feistiness that makes us root for Chloe from the start. We see her as someone that will stand up for herself and her mother but lets us know that there is a vulnerability to her, something that she doesn’t want anybody to see.

My Old Lady

Photo courtesy of Cohen Media

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As great as the cast is they are let down by a script that is too rooted in it’s play-like structure and deliverance. Israel Horovitz, the writer / director of the film, which is based on his stage play of the same name. Horovitz is a writer of over 70 plays but this is his first screenplay, and it looks/sounds like it. His characters go on lengthy speeches, some of which feel very unnatural. Instead of letting the camera tell the story, he uses too many words, making the film seem slow and a little tedious. I was very aware of the 107 minute length of the film, wanting to see the expansion of the characters faster than they did. To Horovitz credit, he does let his characters explore the streets of Paris, using the Cinematography of Michel Anathieu to great effect, making you want to go explore the streets along with the characters. I was also impressed with the set decoration by Daphne Deboaisne, who filled Mathilde’s apartment with nicknacks in almost every conceivable place, just like some who has lived in one place for a very long time would do.

“My Old Lady” is a film full of wonderful, smart performances by a cast that is let down by its script. It’s a movie that could have used a re-write or two, making it a film where the characters talk to each other instead of the audience.   My Rating: Bargain Matinee

My movie rating system from Best to Worst: 1). I Would Pay to See it Again 2). Full Price 3). Bargain Matinee 4). Cable 5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again

“My Old Lady Website

Playing now at Landmark Midtown Art Cinema , Lefont Sandy Springs and AMC Mansell Crossing 14

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