Ben Oliver

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The Lady in the Van

She’s got herself a three-wheeler!
14 November 2015

Maggie Smith stars in an autobiographical piece adapted from the stage about a homeless lady who parks her van on Alan Bennett’s London driveway for 15 years. Alex Jennings stars as the playwright.

The Lady in the Van has all the hallmarks of a mid-to-low budget British film. It’s got a ‘national treasure’ star at the centre, some well known supporting names, a gentle sense of humour and a broad appeal. It’s a sweet film, and probably will be shown on TV at Christmas for years to come.

Beyond that, there’s not much to say. Hytner and Bennett (who wrote the screenplay based on earlier work) don’t quite manage to make The Lady in the Van stand out above its peers. It’s not strictly a comedy but it’s a shame that the humour doesn’t stretch far beyond ‘Maggie Smith saying crazy things’.

Interestingly the relationship between the two doesn’t advance much over the 15 years. They stay very much at arm’s length until the very end. Instead we focus on Bennett’s experience learning about her past in dribs and drabs. It’s a novel idea but isn’t really used to add much to the film.

An enjoyable but disappointingly shallow 100 minutes that needs to rely on more than just star power and a ‘true story’ label.

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