26 November 2014

Israel Horovitz’s ‘My Old Lady’

Like The Ides of March and August: Osage County, My Old Lady was originally written for the US stage. Israel Horovitz turned his script into a screenplay and then directed this film of the same name. Although shot in Paris by a largely French crew (judging from the credits), the film is an Anglo-American production with New York post-production.

The plot is straightforward enough. Mathias (Kevin Kline), impecunious after three divorces, travels to the Marais in central Paris where he has inherited an apartment from his father. He finds it occupied by 90 year-old, Mathilde (Maggie Smith) who, with the support of her célibataire daughter, Chloé (Kristin Scott Thomas), intends to stay put. The apartment was sold to Mathias’ father en viager, that is to say by a sale which gives the vendor tenancy for life and an annuity from the purchaser. Mathias’ original intention of selling the apartment for millions of euros looks shaky from the start and then some dark and complex family secrets begin to be revealed.

The three leads are all top class and Scott Thomas is able to drop frumpy, for which she is inherently unsuited, fairly early on. If you know the Marais, you will recognise and enjoy the setting, while the schmaltziness common in American films in Paris, France is mostly avoided (apart from the Mozart duet by the Seine, sans blague!).  Although the appeal of My Old Lady to under-45s might be limited, it doesn’t deserve to be categorised as cinema geriatrica in the vein of Quartet or The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.


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