"My Old Lady"
Release Date: Sept. 19, 2014
Running Time: 104 minutes
If you think a reverse mortgage, wait until you see My Old Lady. In director Israel Horovitz’s darker-than-anticipated dramedy, Kevin Kline inherits from his father a grand old apartment in Paris that he intends to sell. The problem? When Kline’s father purchased the apartment decades earlier, he agreed to a contract that allows the seller to remain in the apartment until her death. Worse, the broke Kline must pay the seller a monthly stipend. So Kline is stuck with the apartment, known as a “viager,” and the seller and her overprotective spinster daughter, who are played by Maggie Smith and Kristin Scott Thomas. An adaptation of his 2002 play, Horovitz initially finds the humor in Kline’s predicament and the possibility of a romance in the war the thrice-divorced failed author wages against Scott Thomas. There’s more to what’s going on in the apartment than meets the eye. With each day that passes, Horovitz reveals a tidbit of information that finds Kline’s recovering alcoholic considering drinking every bottle of vintage wine found in the apartment. My Old Lady grows heavier with each revelation, with Horovitz taking the film in a direction that is both unexpected and often difficult to contemplate. Horovitz abandons the comedy to issue a wake-up call for a man whose estranged relationship with his father has left him empty and insensitive. While Kline isn’t trapped in the apartment, Horovitz doesn’t make much of an effort to open up the play to take into account Paris’ breathtaking cityscape. By keeping the proceedings mostly confined to the apartment, Horovitz heightens the tension that surrounds Kline’s psychological downward spiral. Kline reeks of desperation the moment he steps into the apartment. He also carries a chip on his shoulder that informs every biting remark he directs at Smith and Scott Thomas. Not one to mince her words, Smith maintains a dignity that never falters, even when everything seems to fall apart for all concerned. Scott Thomas masks her obvious insecurities with a steeliness that takes Kline a long time to pierce. The playwright in Horovitz knows that it’s best for him to step aside and let Kline and Scott Thomas explore the emotional neglect that grips them so tightly and could possibly bind them. Many ugly things are said in the beautiful apartment. In the end, though, it’s for the best.
Aired: Sept. 18, 2014
Web site: http://cohenmedia.net/films/my-old-lady