HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: My Old Lady
HTS Overall Score:72
“My Old Lady” is an adaptation of play, written and directed by the play’s own playwright. Right there you can color me intrigued as too many plays get adapted by people who have little to no experience or connection with the actual play and the disparities can get a bit too great for my liking. I went into this little French outing thinking it was a pure comedy and was wildly surprised to see that it was a dramatic story with some VERY darkly comedic elements. The first act is quite light and humorous, but once it gets going into the second act the heavy drama comes out and by the third act I was actually looking for some sort of lightness, because the humor was getting pitch black.
Mathias Gold (Kevin Kline), has just moved to the city of love (Paris) after inheriting an apartment owned by his late father. Overjoyed at getting something that he can actually sell for money (we learn quite early on that Mathias is a bit cash strapped and has used his last penny to come over to France and flip the apartment). Imagine his surprise when he finds out that his little money well has a resident by the name of Mathilde Gerard (Maggie Smith). Well, actually two residents if you include her daughter, Chloe (Kristin Scott Thomas). It seems that Mathias’ father had purchased the apartment through France’s Viager system of property ownership. Under the Viager system the buyer pays the seller a small fee for the apartment, then pays a fee for the rest of that person’s life when they can then gain ownership of the apartment. Ironically the buyer is paying a fee and gambling on how long the seller will live to see how good a deal they got on the place.
Mathias’ dream of selling the apartment and getting rick once more seems at an end. He can’t sell the apartment outright since it’s more of a contract, and a viager contract isn’t exactly an easy sell. Forced to pay rent for his OWN apartment, Mathias now has to come up with a plan for dumping this place and the burden that he’s been saddled with. Immediately at odds with Chloe, and wary of Mathilde, the frustrated man does everything he can to get rid of the noose around his neck and even resorts to some rather sleazy tactics to get the old bat and her daughter out. Along the way he has to fight the inner demons that have been following him around as long as he’s been alive and this little living arrangement may provide just the right amount of rock and hard place to accommodate some sort of healing.
Right off the bat I can tell you that this movie feels more like a play than your average film. The way the acts unfold, the monologues spoken by the leads, and the verbiage used all wreak of stage acting. That’s not a bad thing, as a good play and a good film have more in common than you would think, and the monologues themselves can be hysterical in the right context. However, in certain areas it’s also a detriment, as Kevin Kline’s whine and pontificating can get a bit grinding after a while. Maggie Smith is quite good at her job here as the elderly tenant with the instincts of a wolf, but Kristin Scott Thomas steals the show with her ability to emote even when not speaking. Her eyes can convey more information than a 10 minute dialogue and the sympathy on her face when Mathias collapses under the weight of his own memories is heartbreakingly sweet.
I really enjoyed “My Old Lady”, for the most part, and am really surprise at some of the turns that it took along the way. I originally thought it was going to be a comedy, or at least a dramedy, but the movie changes from comedy to drama to BLACK dramedy rather quickly and starts to delve into some very serious issues. Once the reveal about WHO Mathilde is to Mathias’ father the movie gets deeply dark and doesn’t come out till the very end. Mathias wrestling with his latent alcoholism and the depression over his father’s cruelty to his mother and himself is intensely heartbreaking, leaving you with a sense of pity and sadness over how he’s come to this state. Mathilde herself is a perfectly relatable, yet loathsome character herself. You chuckle at her most of the time, and then learn to hate her as she reveals her one sided view of the truth, but than the more she speaks, the more you pity her. Not a kind sort of pity, but rather you feel empathy for her because she is so lost in her own version of the truth that she can’t find her way out. The dialogues about love and kindness are meant less to inspire you and make you feel good about love, but to show you that many people follow their own heart, but find out that “following your heart” can have bitter consequences if not tempered by common sense and a sense of morality. My complaint with the film has to do with the ending. The movie dips out of the darkness at the end with a surprise romance that just feels a bit awkward and rushed. Had there been a greater emphasis on building it up over time I might have been a bit more amenable to it, but as is, it feels waaaaay too rushed and just shoehorned in there to create a happy ending. The logistics of the romance are sound, and you can tell that the play had a bit more depth to that story angle, but the film glossed over the buildup. It’s not a great hindrance but it did make me drop it a half star.
Rated PG-13 for thematic material and some sexual references
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=37394[/img]“My Old Lady” is presented on Blu-ray from Universal studios in its original 2.40:1 theatrical presentation and looks extremely pleasing on home video. Usually a comedy or a drama tends to be shot in a more “full screen” (for lack of a better word) presentation, but after watching about half the film I can’t see it working as effectively in any other aspect ratio. The scope presentation opens up the sides of the picture dramatically and allows you to soak in the Paris landscape, adding to the texture and tone of the film in a dramatic way. A 1.85:1 aspect ratio would have been easier to focus on the characters, but the scrolling walks that Mathias takes and the culture seep through much easier when you can see the character zoomed out slightly and watch as the city goes on by. Colors are very natural and warm to the touch, with plenty of blues, golds and greens to saturate the picture. Detail is striking throughout and shows plenty of visual nuances. There is a slight softness to the picture, smoothing corners and keeping the image from being razor sharp, but that is only very slight. The black levels are excellent and show no signs of crush, lack of shadow detail or the like. Overall, just a very pleasing picture for a drama.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=37402[/img]The single 5.1 DTS-HD MA presentation on the disc is what you would expect for a dramedy, as its very forward heavy and focused on the dialog. Said dialog is very well done and the only fault I can find with it is the accent of Kristin Scott Thomas and Maggie Smith sometimes make it hard for my southwestern ear to pick up (and really that’s no fault of the track at all). The Dialog is clean and clear, well balanced with the rest of the track and blends well with the French score. Surrounds are a bit light in the loafers, as I felt the surrounds didn’t really kick in very much except for some slight ambient noises around the city. LFE is there, but rather subdues, allowing itself to come out and exercise during some of the soundtrack and adding some weight behind doors slamming and bottles crashing to the floor.
• 92nd Street Y Anette Insdorf Interview with Kenvin Kline and Israel Horowitz
“My Old Lady” is a bit whimsical, but somehow insanely dark and introspective and just feels very much like a stage play on film. Written and director by Israel Horowitz, it is a slow burning drama about how to make the best out of life, even when the best is just scavenging what you can out of the rest of your life. Pieces of it are sweet and endearing, other parts overwhelmingly fill you with pity and sadness, but the overall moral of the story is, that the future always holds something new, and that you are not held back by your past as much as one might think. The ending upsets the flow a little bit, but otherwise it is a very solid little black dramedy. I would definitely recommend a watch.
Starring: Kevin Kline, Kristin Scott Thomas, Maggie Smith
Directed by: Israel Horowitz
Written by: Israel Horowitz
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Runtime: 108 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: January 27th 2015
Buy My Old Lady Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Check it Out
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