A look at My Old Lady (M)…
MAGGIE SMITH rules indisputably as the arch elderly lady who regularly delivers the best lines in a film or a television series.
In the hit British series Downtown Abbey she’s the dowager countess, supremely conservative and dismissive of the ‘lower orders’ with her acerbic comments, in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel she’s the dotty Muriel while in Gosford Park she’s another countess – this time, the toffee-nosed Countess of Trentham.
Now here she is in Israel Horovitz’s film as long-term resident Mathilde Girard living in a garden apartment in one of Paris’ most fashionable districts: Le Marais.
Feckless, down-on-his-luck New Yorker Mathias Gold (Kevin Kline) arrives in Paris to claim his inheritance only to find 92-year-old Mathilde camped slap-bang in the middle of his run-down, but still eminently desirable, city apartment.
She informs Mathias that he can’t sell the apartment out from under her. There’s the little matter of France’s viager equity scheme which involves owners selling an interest in their properties for a monthly stipend while continuing to live in the building until their deaths.
And, as the tenant, she’s entitled to 2400 Euros a month from the landlord.
This stumps Mathias. He quickly realizes that his unloved and unloveable father has, in death, trumped him.
Not only has the New Yorker no hope of paying out the debt he’s inherited, he’s landed with an immovable tenant.
Enter Mathilde’s daughter Chloe (Kristin Scott Thomas). She also lives in the apartment and while Mathias settles into a rented room upstairs, Chloe remains quite disdainful of the intruder.
When she finds out Mathias has made something of an undercover visit to her mother’s physician Chloe explodes.
And then she has to cope with a recovering alcoholic who conveniently falls off the wagon when Mathias discovers Madame Girard’s impressive wine cellar.
You just know, however, that within this unlikely ménage-a-trois Chloe will most likely end up liking Mathias, despite all his faults.
And the actor who has the most fun with his or her lines is, of course, Maggie Smith. As always, she is magnificent.