My Old Lady …a movie review by Roz Tarszisz

November 11, 2014 by Roz Tarszisz
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While the raison d’etre of this drama is peculiarly French, at its centre are universal human foibles and secrets.

Adapting his own play, Israel Horovitz has written the script and directed. The story is based around the French real estate arrangement known as viager in which the buyer pays a monthly fee to the seller in lieu of a lump sum, forgoing the right the occupy the property until the seller’s death. For the buyers’ heirs, this can prove problematic.

American Mathias Gold (Kevin Kline) arrives in Paris to claim the apartment bequeathed to him by his wealthy and estranged father. He is broke, desperate to sell and in for a nasty shock. The apartment is worth squillions, but only after its sitting tenant, Mathilde Girard, a healthy 90-year-old, dies. He cannot evict her.

Mathilde lets him stay in the large apartment but her daughter Chloe, also resident, hates him on sight and wants him gone. Max, Mathias’ father, was paying Mathilde 2,400 euros per month, a sum Mathias is aghast to realise he will soon have to stump up.

Matheus is so broke he flogs off bits of furniture from the apartment to get some cash. A bitter man, he is angry at his father for the way he treated his mother and is still traumatised by her suicide almost 40 years earlier.

When Mathias complains to a friendly real estate agent, Auguste Lefebvre (Dominique Pinon) about the apartment’s shortage of toilets, Lefebvre tells him that the French are interested in food but not its inevitable outcome.

Chloe and Mathias have more in common than they realised, such as unresolved issues from their childhoods as well as resentment towards a parent. Nothing we haven’t seen before, particularly on stage.

All three leads turn in strong performances and work well off each other. There are moments of humour amongst the dramas and inevitable revelations.

Smith is convincing as an elderly woman living on her memories. A scruffy Kline carries a hint of raffish charm and Scott Thomas is washed out but still beautiful. They match the apartment with its faded grandeur.

The story is slight but the vigorous, almost theatrical performances make it worth watching. Gaining an appreciation of the quirkiness of French real estate is a bonus.

Watch the trailer:

3.5/5  Classified M Opens November 13

Starring Kevin Kline, Kristin Scott Thomas, Maggie Smith

Written and Directed by Israel Horovitz from his play My Old Lady

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