“My Old Lady” a Poignant Love Story (Film Review)

MY OLD poster


Writer and actor Israel Horovitz adds a second film to his directorial credits with My Old Lady. Originally written and produced for the stage, he has released the work as a film with brilliant cinematography and freedom to use a wider variety of settings. The movie stars Dame Maggie Smith, Kevin Kline and Kristin Scott Thomas in roles that seemingly are written for them. Touching, memorable and delightful My Old Lady reaches out for an older audience that embraces life and romance.

New Yorker Mathias Gold (Kevin Kline) arrives in Paris on a mission to visit the homestead of his late father who has willed the very enchanting yet valuable piece of property to him. He arrives at the nicely located mansion and after an impromptu walk inside the home comes across Madame Mathilde Girard (Dame Maggie Smith) who introduces herself.

Kevin Kline as Mathias Gold and Dame Maggie Smith as Mme Girard in My Old Lady

Kevin Kline as Mathias Gold and Dame Maggie Smith as Mme Girard in My Old Lady

After a brief chat about the inheritance, spending the balance of his savings to get to Paris and his intentions of selling the estate, Mme Gerard informs him that she is a “viager”. In France a person who sells their home, if agreed by the buyer, may remain in the house for life if desired. She tells Mathias that his father purchased the home that way so she would always have a place to stay. She also reveals other facts that corroborate her story and reasons for keeping their relationship going.

When Mathias starts to unravel the situation piece by piece he finds that her unmarried daughter Chloe Girard (Kristin Scott Thomas) lives at the property. Writer/director Israel Horovitz keeps situations nicely complicated, often comical and sometimes confrontational. He moves his characters around like playing a game of chess with each player finding themselves in check only to get saved at the last moment. While Chloe challenges Mathias on his intentions, it’s her mother that intervenes. As the play spools out Horovitz reveals more of the game until the Queen gets cornered.

Mathias (Kline) play a tune on the piano in My Old Lady

Mathias (Kline) play a tune on the piano in My Old Lady

The acting is brilliant with Kevin Kline as the unsuspecting destitute looking for a quick buck. Kline puts Mathias charm to work keeping Chloe at bay while dealing with Mme Gerard to allow him to stay at the house while he figures everything out. He seemingly controls all the action, but it’s both Scott Thomas and Smith that are getting the upper hand. When a subtle nicety relationship begins between Mathias and Chloe, Kline and Scott Thomas’s romantic chemistry starts to surface.

It’s enjoyable to see Dame Maggie Smith on the screen again. Her legacy as the screen’s most memorable face has been nurtured nearly 60 years with film, television and theater. From her character Miss Mead in V.I.P.s with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton to a staunch teacher in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and then a main role as the grandmother in Hook, she then landed the strong role of Professor Minerva McGonagall in the Harry Potter series. With over 79 appearances she’s one of the most recognizable actors for movie goers of all ages.

Chloe (Scott Thomas) faces up to Mathias (Kline) in My Old Lady

Chloe (Scott Thomas) faces up to Mathias (Kline) in My Old Lady

The cinematography captures a different area of Paris, The Gold’s old estate house and quaint city cafes that make the film enchanting. Although a modern day setting, through the camera’s eye you can see that the retro still exists in the city of lights. Close ups are nicely captured showing the aged actors in their present veneer unmasked for all to see. The shots of the barge along the Seine, a quaint antique store, walkways and the nicely kept courtyard in the rear of the Gold’s home deliver the mystique and magic of the city’s romance.

My Old Lady has been rated PG-13 for thematic material and some sexual references. There are some quick lines in French, but they are easily understood from the reactions of the characters. If there is a downside it’s the cramming of superfluous dialogue that draws the film out and makes it a little sluggish.

FINAL ANALYSIS: A charming film for those who like movies like Remains of the Day and A Room with a View. (B)

Additional Film Information:
Cast: Dame Maggie Smith, Kevin Kline and Kristin Scott Thomas
Directed by: Israel Horovitz
Genre: Drama, Romance, Foreign English
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for thematic material and some sexual references
Running Time: 1 hr 47 min
Release Date: September 19, 2014
Distributed by: Cohen Media Group
Release Formats: 2D

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