WORTH A LOOK?: *****
WHERE: Greenwich Picturehouse
It is hard to imagine characters more different for Dame Maggie Smith to play than Downton Abbey‘s Countess of Grantham and the titular Lady In The Van here.
It’s 37 years since Dame Maggie last won an Oscar and we expect her to be in the running again early next year on the strength of this Alan Bennett-penned film about the real-life homeless woman he allowed to park a van on his drive for 15 years.
Director Nicholas Hytner reunites much of the cast of Bennett’s The History Boys, including Frances de la Tour as a well-meaning Camden neighbour, Russell Tovey as a late night guest of the author’s and James Corden as a cocky market trader, and we are treated to a dual performance by Alex Jennings as Bennett the author and protagonist.
Dame Maggie has already played the part in the 1999 play and 2009 Radio Four adaptation. Bennett describes her as a bully but in Dame Maggie’s hands she very much keeps our sympathy as we, as Bennett does, come to realise the complex circumstances that have made her homeless.
A tip of the cap to Jim Broadbent who is barely onscreen but is unforgettably sinister when he is as a former policeman.
It’s a story which doesn’t sound either fun or as though it should make much of a film but in Bennett’s hands every last laugh at the expense of British awkwardness at dealing with such a situation is tickled from the material.
- Picture: Alan Jennings as Bennett and Dame Maggie, via Facebook courtesy The Lady In The Van.
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