Amiable enough but yet another reheating of this (now well known) story following book, theatre and radio play. Good enough for tea in front of the television but little else. If you're new to this, I'd read read Bennett's Diaries instead as the added metaphysics here feel like the calculated add-on they are.
The story of this movie is quite forgettable. But Maggie Smith's acting is not. For those of us who loved her starring in Downton Abbey as a countess, seeing her in this role is such a great and interesting contrast. This is a British dramatic-comedy, just that.
Maggie Smith plays a destitute bag lady in this whimsical film written by Alan Bennett. She moves her van into Bennett's drive and stays many a year. The film has some beautiful twists and turns showing both a true community spirit and loneliness in a London suburb.
Only the English can take a story about two fairly singular eccentrics and turn it into the cinematic equivalent of drinking milky tea while soaking in a lukewarm bath. Tepid, in a not-unpleasant way; a nice change from sensationalism or contrived, paternalistic attempts at "humanizing" outsider characters. Skilfully acted and amusing. Unobtrusive and mild.
The film's trailer that made it look like 'Marigold' meets 'Archie Bunker' with a syrupy heart of gold turned me off seeing this initially. Catching up with it there was far more than the marketing decided to show. Alan Bennett wrote the film, from his own memoir, and gives it a sense of both play and candor especially in the device of giving his narrator dual identities. Alex Jennings is quite good as Bennett(s).
I have this thing for the English humor. There's such an intelligent, elegant and sarcastic side to it. And the fact that only a few people understand that sarcasm makes it even more attractive. Maggie Smith has the powerful and unique ability to build a performance that makes your heart warm and tender and then breaks it. I think she might be the real queen of England, "possibly".
Good drama with fine performances all around. The emotional weight is not properly gauged in my opinion and there is no real catharsis for any of the characters. Things just move on and things end, very much like life I guess, without much hoopla. So when the meta sensibilities of the writing goers over board in the end in order to properly send the characters off, it´s just too much and too late.
This film may be sentimental and a bit too quirky at times; but, I found that the more the film went on, the more I enjoyed it. The humor is delightful, the characters are well-defined, and I like the self-examination approach to Alan Bennett's screenplay. But, above all else, Maggie Smith's performance is nothing short of wonderful, and I'm very disappointed she was not nominated for an Oscar this year.