The most notable features of Alan Bennett's writing are his honesty and wry, gentle humour. Despite some plot embellishments the authenticity of his ambivalence towards his mother and Miss Shepherd and the mixture of guilt, exasperation and pity which governed his relationships with these very different women, is beautifully conveyed. Maggie Smith's brilliance lies in her ability to suggest the mental illness which destroyed Margaret/Mary's life and still clouds her mind combined with her shrewd determination to survive while retaining some shreds of dignity and independence. She <more>
senses Alan's inability to turn her away and he, in turn, seems to recognise a sensitive, traumatised soul in the stinking, obstinate vagrant. Alex Jennings captures the essence of Alan Bennett, his fastidiousness, his high moral standards and his relentless pursuit of truth in his writing. The superb script and talented cast give a vivid portrayal of this period of the writer's life and the charm of his Camden neighborhood.
I saw the play some years ago, but the film had a somewhat different aspect and some embellishments. The major embellishment being the device of two Alan Bennetts, one being the persona of the author and the other being the reluctant Samaritan, which I thought was very effective. Another serious embellishment is the back story of why the lady in the van is a vagrant. As for Miss Shepherd, I was dreading an unwashed Dowager of Downton, but who was I to pre-judge such a gifted actress as Maggie Smith. She can say more in a few seconds of facial expressions than a whole page of script. She's <more>
not the only great actor on show of course, wonderful performances by all.
Insightfully written and amazingly acted (by neilandjo-120-342587)
Dame Maggie Smith and Alec Jennings are perfectly cast and directed in this amusing, moving portrayal of an irascible old lady's relationship with the timid writer who kindly offered her temporary refuge in his drive - but where she stayed for 15 years. It is a breathtakingly stunning performance from Smith and a brilliant performance by Jennings. The script is warm, insightful and witty, with the clever device of having two Alans - the writer who observes and the man who lives and interacts with the world outside. All the supporting cast are wonderful too. It's a must see movie, <more>
particularly for anyone who has cared for an elderly parent, or watched a parent care for their grandparent. Funny, moving and brilliant, it is a joy.
The best thing Maggie Smith did for The Lady in the Van was not giving a brilliant acting performance, but agreeing to reprise her stage role as The Lady. Without that, this movie would not have been made.This is a near-perfect "small" movie, but unlike many such films, this one is neither slow nor boring. The film begins with the sounds of a terrible car crash, and within ten minutes, we have several mysteries to chew on: Who is "the lady" really; why can't she tolerate listening to music; what happened in that car crash? These mysteries keep us engaged while <more>
playwright Alan Bennett tells us a story that at its core is more about the relationship between Bennett - or rather Bennett's two selves, the one who writes and the one who lives life - and the lady living in his driveway.In choosing to portray himself as two characters – also a feature of his play – Bennett has chosen a device that could have been a disaster but in the rendering comes off brilliantly, especially near the end of this highly engaging film. I don't want to give anything away about that, so just watch it for yourself and enjoy.
Dame Maggie Smith - Outstanding (by Figgy66-915-598470)
13 November 2015 Film of Choice at The Plaza Dorchester This Afternoon - The Lady in the Van. Dame Maggie Smith delivers an outstanding performance as the irascible old lady who moved into Alan Bennet's driveway. Complete with all her belongings, she and her van moved in for a couple of months and stayed for 15 years. This mostly true story is not a comedy, in fact, much the reverse, however, the brilliance that is Dame Maggie Smith brought a huge range of emotions to the screen. Having seen her interviewed recently I think she has brought a large percentage of her own personality to this <more>
character and there are many moments of mirth provided by the dry humour and sheer bloody mindedness of the lady in the van. A very astute woman who lived in fear, but also a strong minded woman who faced day to day head on and completely lived by her own unique rules. Quite a thought provoking film, brought to us by the very talented Alan Bennett and starring one of our best actresses. We were also treated to a very accomplished performance by Alex Jennings who played Alan Bennett. This deserves awards aplenty!!!!!
Coming of age better late than never..... (by tkn10015)
Silly to try and review Maggie Smith. As the very engaging Alex Jennings said at a Q and A I attended, nobody has the acting toolbox of Dame Maggie. He also cracked me up. Funny talented fellow. They made the movie at Alan Bennett's old house in his posh old neighborhood. With the van in the driveway and all the garbage bags, the older neighbors who remembered the smelly eyesore thought she had come back. Okay, so there are slow times here and there. After glimpsing Dame Maggie coasting a bit in that endless Abbey thing, she breaks out her chops here for real. The supporting cast are the <more>
Who's Who of British players. Anything for Sir Nicholas. A Master Class, if anyone out there still wants to laugh, cry and learn from the best.
A third Oscar for Maggie? Very probable, I'd say. (by MOscarbradley)
Like all the best English comedies, the humor in "The Lady in the Van" is founded on character and in eccentricity but then we should expect nothing less from the pen of the great Alan Bennett. This is mostly a true story we are told and it's the story of a very eccentric lady and one, or is it two, quite eccentric men. The lady is Mary, or is it Margaret, Shepherd who might be considered homeless were it not for the van she lives in. The somewhat eccentric man is Bennett himself. I said two because in this case we get two Bennetts for the price of one, Alan the writer and Alan <more>
the householder and they are both played by Alex Jennings.Miss Shepherd really existed and she's the lady who, at Bennett's request. moved her van from the street outside his house, where she had parked it, into his driveway. Initially she was due to stay a few months but ended up parking there for 15 years. Bennett turned the story of her stay first into a novella and then into a play and now, under the direction of Nicholas Hytner, into a film and a beautiful job he's made of it.Of course, for the purpose of dramatic and comic effect Mr Bennett has taken liberties, adding bits here and there including a delightful phantasmagorical ending. He also surrounds himself and Miss Shepherd with a host of other characters, some almost as eccentric as they are. Recreating the part she played on stage Maggie Smith is magnificent in the title role. Of course, you could say Maggie has been playing variations of Jean Brodie for the past 45 years. It's easy to see Miss Brodie in the put-downs of the Dowager, Countess of Grantham had Jean been born into a different generation or class and it's not much of a step to see Miss Shepherd as an older, very much down-on-her-luck Jean Brodie. A third Oscar is certainly not out of the question.Jennings, too, has Bennett off to a tee and there's lovely support from the likes of Frances De La Tour, Roger Allam and Deborah Findlay as sundry neighbors while the entire cast of Bennett's "The History Boys" manage to pop up in one form or another. If it feels slighter than some of Bennett's other offerings it may simply be because here he is writing about someone we would probably pass in the street without looking twice at. Of course, if on meeting Miss Shepherd in the street we knew what we know now, we might indeed give her a second or even a third glance; we might even invite her to move her van into our driveway. Slight? Not a bit of it.
Dame Maggie as another cranky old bird (by davidgee)
At the bottom of the poster it says: 'This is a mostly true story.' Nicholas Hytner directs a 'revisionist' take on Miss Shepherd, the tramp-like old biddy who parked her van in Alan Bennett's front drive for a few weeks that turned into 15 years. The movie version fleshes out her story with glimpses of her past a convent, a piano recital, a family feud, a fatal accident which the narrator one of the two Alan Bennetts played by Alex Jennings tells us he only found out after she died. A woman in front of me whispered to her companion, who wondered why Alan Bennett had a <more>
twin, that he actually had a split personality. That's not a bad explanation for the device of the householder Alan who puts up with Miss Shepherd and clears her mess from his drive and the writer Alan who doesn't think there's a story in this. I'm not sure that the double-act is entirely effective or necessary: a voice-over from the real Alan would have worked just as well, wouldn't it? Despite the attempts to give the Lady a life before the Van, the screenplay is more revealing about the playwright, the reluctant Samaritan who is also having to deal with his northern mother's journey down the road to dementia. There are even a few references to the fact that Mr Bennett's sexuality was being questioned for many years before he finally outed himself.The movie has more pace than the book and the play did. Maggie Smith is of course simply magnificent, fully absorbed into the grimy skin of this unlovable old harridan. Her performance is pitched midway between the Duchess of Downton and Muriel from the Marigold Hotel, although the character preposterously blends Hyacinth Bucket with Victor Meldrew. The 'History Boys', who largely owe their careers to Mr Bennett, pop up in a series of cameos, along with Frances de la Tour and Stephen Campbell-Moore from the same play. Jim Broadbent's scrounger is the least convincing presence and is perhaps mostly untrue.This looks like being another highly competitive year for Oscars and BAFTAs, but Dame Maggie is certain to be a contender and could well be a winner. THE LADY IN THE VAN is not pitch-perfect in the way that THE HISTORY BOYS was and the first - best - MARIGOLD HOTEL , but it is another master-class exemplar of British writing, acting and film- making.
An eccentric and decidedly grubby aged lady parks her decrepit old van which appears to contain her entire world goods outside writer Alan Bennett's house in Camden. When the Council threatens to have it towed away, Bennett's diffidence leads to it being parked in his drive, to the consternation of his neighbours, where it – and she – stay for 15 years. As time passes, an odd relationship develops between them, and he begins to discover elements of her past.This true-life if somewhat embellished story is written by Alan Bennett, who is played here by Alex Jennings. <more>
Essentially a two-hander Jennings gives a solid portrait of Bennett, who cameos briefly at the end , the rather odd and squirrelly Miss Shepherd is played by Maggie Smith, having a whale of a time with a part which is tailor-made from a Grande Dame of Thespia to have fun with. And she certainly does. And so do we. After all, how can we go wrong with Smith's performance and Bennett's words? This is a very funny film.It is also largely true, which means that it is unbearably poignant from time to time, although Bennett takes great care to follow such moments up with a belly-laugh. Miss Shepherd's story is carefully unfolded throughout the duration of the film, and this thread of human interest underlies the odd events and funny consequences and dialogue.This is a gentle and very human film, all the better for being true. And how fortunate that it happened to Alan Bennett!