Review: 'The Lady in the Van' a compelling character study


THE LADY IN THE VAN: 3 STARS

Fans of Maggie Smith’s cantankerous "Downton Abbey" character Violet Crawley will find some pleasure in her new performance as a homeless woman.

See Full Article

The costumes have changed but her irascibility and way with a line are firmly in place.

"The Lady in the Van," is the true story of the friendship between "The History Boys" playwright Alan Bennett (Alex Jennings) and Miss Mary Shepherd (Smith, reprising her acclaimed stage role) the woman who lives in front of his Camden home. In the early 1970s he let her park her van in his driveway. "It’ll be easier," he says, "just until she figures out where she’s going." Fifteen years later she was still there, a curiosity for the neighbours but a muse of sorts for Bennett.

Little by little he discovers more details about her life—how she was once a nun, a gifted piano player and once committed to an institution by her family—including her darkest secret, that she felt responsible for the death of a motorcyclist after a car accident. Living in fear of arrest her life unravelled and she wound up on Bennett’s driveway and a part of his life.

"The Lady in the Van" is a character study of a difficult person contained in a movie that often errs on the side of sentiment, particularly in its fanciful final moments, but avoids caricature.

It isn’t driven by story, instead it’s a comedy of manners propelled by Smith’s characterization of the eccentric titular character and the human bond that grows between Bennett and Shepherd.

In terms of any real action, nothing much happens, save for a bang at the beginning.

Bennett, who wrote the screenplay based on his stage play, is clearly fond of his central character—despite describing her as someone for whom "feelings of gratitude, humility and forgiveness were either foreign to her nature or had become so over the years"—and has painted a portrait of a socially uncomfortable woman who isn’t an ogre but a tragic figure. Smith brings her to vivid life, giving this slight movie some real heart and soul.



Advertisements

Latest Entertainment News

  • Weinstein paid $1M to silence Italian model who accused him of groping: report

    Entertainment CBC News
    Harvey Weinstein paid $1 million US to silence an Italian model who accused him of groping her in 2015 after prosecutors decided not to charge him, and in the 1990s, his brother paid other accusers from his personal bank account, a magazine reported Tuesday. Source
  • Pixar co-founder John Lasseter steps down over 'missteps' with employees

    Entertainment CBC News
    Pixar co-founder and Walt Disney Animation chief John Lasseter is taking a six-month leave of absence citing "missteps" with employees. In a vaguely worded memo obtained by The Associated Press Tuesday, Lasseter says he knows he has made some employees feel disrespected and uncomfortable. Source
  • Pixar co-founder John Lasseter takes leave over 'missteps' with employees

    Entertainment CBC News
    Pixar co-founder and Walt Disney Animation chief John Lasseter is taking a six-month leave of absence citing "missteps" with employees. In a vaguely worded memo obtained by The Associated Press Tuesday, Lasseter says he knows he has made some employees feel disrespected and uncomfortable. Source
  • Disney Animation, Pixar chief John Lasseter taking leave

    Entertainment CTV News
    LOS ANGELES -- Just days before Pixar's "Coco" is set to hit theatres, Pixar co-founder and Walt Disney Animation chief John Lasseter announced he is taking a six-month leave of absence citing "missteps" with employees. Source
  • People with facial differences see their stories reflected in Wonder

    Entertainment CBC News
    When Vanessa Wiens was just 12 years old, she was out walking her dog and someone yelled, "Hey you, ugly ... you should go kill yourself." She did contemplate suicide, being the target of cruel comments in her neighbourhood at least four times a week when she was growing up. Source
  • 'He still feels like Michael from Vancouver:' Junos tap 'guy next door' Bublé as 2018 host

    Entertainment CBC News
    After the curtain fell on the 2016 Juno Awards, producers behind the Canadian music celebration received an effusive call from a devoted fan praising the awards telecast: Michael Bublé. "He said: 'I would love to host again. Source
  • Canadian singer Michael Buble is 2018 Juno Awards host

    Entertainment CTV News
    VANCOUVER -- Canadian singer Michael Buble will be the host the 2018 Juno Awards. Buble had been tapped to host the music awards show last year before he bowed out when his son Noah was diagnosed with cancer. Source
  • Anne Murray donates 40 years of memorabilia to University of Toronto

    Entertainment CBC News
    Anne Murray's decision to downsize led to some good news for her Toronto-based fans: the singer has donated 40 years' worth of memorabilia that can now be viewed at the University of Toronto. Packing up her Toronto home to move into a condo meant having to decide what to do with dozens of boxes of memorabilia, and the school convinced the Nova Scotia-born singer to donate it rather than throw it away. Source
  • CBS News, PBS cut ties to Charlie Rose following sex allegations

    Entertainment CBC News
    CBS News has fired Charlie Rose following sexual misconduct allegations. CBS had earlier suspended Rose following Monday's Washington Post story about him, while both PBS and Bloomberg also halted distribution of his nightly interview show. Source
  • Canadian documentary series 'Hip-Hop Evolution' among International Emmy winners

    Entertainment CTV News
    NEW YORK -- A Canadian documentary series about the history of hip hop was among the winners at the 2017 International Emmy Awards gala Monday night in New York. "Hip-Hop Evolution," which is hosted by rapper Shad and was broadcast on HBO, won in the arts programming category. Source