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

  • Actor killed during filming of Australian music video

    Entertainment CTV News
    SYDNEY, Australia - Police say an actor has been killed while filming a scene for an Australian band's music video. Queensland state Police Detective Inspector Tom Armitt says the man died at a bar in the city of Brisbane while filming a scene that involved several firearms. Source
  • Karen Gillan slams critics of `sexist`Jumanji outfit

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Karen Gillan has slammed critics of the outfit she wore in a promotional picture from the Jumanji reboot. The 29-year-old Scottish actress plays Ruby Roundhouse in the movie, alongside Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, and Nick Jonas. Source
  • Ryan Reynolds, Tom Cruise on shortlist for Green Lantern role

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Tom Cruise and Ryan Reynolds are on a rumoured shortlist to play superhero Green Lantern in a new film. The actors are frontrunner to play Hal Jordan and his alter ego, alongside Joel McHale, Bradley Cooper, Armie Hammer, and Jake Gyllenhaal, according to TheWrap.com. Source
  • Matt Damon says he'll pitch clean water to Trump

    Entertainment CTV News
    Matt Damon, Co-Founder of Water.org, speaks during a penal session on the first day of the 47th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, WEF, in Davos, Switzerland, Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. (Gian Ehrenzeller/Keystone via AP) Source
  • Madonna defends her anti-Trump speech at women's march

    Entertainment CTV News
    NEW YORK -- Madonna is defending her fiery, expletive-laden speech at the women's march, saying her words were "taken wildly out of context." The singer said at the Washington, D.C., march Saturday that she had at times been angry after the election and had thought "an awful lot about blowing up the White House. Source
  • Aziz Ansari tackles Trump, Islamophobia and 'casual white supremacy' on SNL

    Entertainment CBC News
    There was no impersonation of Donald Trump by actor Alec Baldwin on Saturday Night Live this week, but guest host Aziz Ansari gave his own two cents about the new U.S. president. The Master of None creator and star took the stage the same day as massive women's marches across the country and around the world. Source
  • Shyamalan’s ’Split’ doubles up on xXx flick at box office

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    NEW YORK — M. Night Shyamalan’s psychological thriller “Split” blew away box-office expectations, earning $40.2 million in ticket sales over inauguration weekend, according to studio estimates Sunday. Though many were focused on Friday’s presidential inauguration and Saturday’s nationwide women’s marches, “Split” doubled forecasts to easily lead all films. Source
  • Ryan Gosling, Denis Villeneuve among Canadians likely to get Oscar nominations

    Entertainment CBC News
    When this year's Oscar nominations are announced on Tuesday, there's a good chance some Canadians will be prominently in the mix, most notably Quebec director Denis Villeneuve and London, Ont.-born actor Ryan Gosling. The in-demand duo, who are working together on the upcoming sci-fi film noir Blade Runner 2049, has already racked up a long list of honours separately on the awards circuit. Source
  • Shyamalan's 'Split' divides competition to rule box office

    Entertainment CTV News
    NEW YORK -- M. Night Shyamalan's psychological thriller "Split" blew away box-office expectations, earning an estimated $40.2 million in ticket sales over inauguration weekend. Though many were focused on Friday's presidential inauguration and Saturday's nationwide women's marches, "Split" doubled forecasts to easily lead all films. Source
  • No more nerds, sex bombs: Female animators draw away cliches

    Entertainment CTV News
    SANTA CLARITA, Calif. -- The California Institute of the Arts was created partly by Walt Disney's desire to bring more top-flight animators into the profession. And it has during its 47 years, though for a long time almost all were men. Source