MoviefiedNYC Review: My Old Lady

Kevin Kline, Maggie Smith

Every time I think of Kevin Kline, my mind always goes straight to A Fish called Wanda, where he played an arrogant and absurdly stupid thief alongside Jamie Lee Curtis and John Cleese. One scene in particular, in which he tortures the stuttering brother of his lover by eating his live goldfish one by one, comes to mind. I remember being a kid, watching this with my parents, and thinking this was the funniest sequence around–I mean, Kline, with absolute confidence, knew exactly how funny he was. And so, in hearing that he is the dramatic star of My Old Lady, I was both excited yet hesitant to watch him in such a dramatic role, wondering if he could capture that same enigmatic and fearless personality which dumb-founded me years before.

And I’m chuffed to say that was an absolute thrill to watch him in this film, simply put. His character, Matthius, must travel to Paris to assume the vast apartment his wealthy but absent father left him. Upon arrival, he finds Mathilde (Maggie Smtih), a ”viajer”, a person who is bought out of their home with the promise they can still live there until death. Matthius has therefore inherited this obligation, and can neither sell nor move into the house freely. He vaguely remembers her, but has no real idea what she meant to his father. While it may seem slow to begin with, the surprises are well worth the wait, and the character development is poignant Essentially, Matthius begins to learn that Mathilde, and her striking yet stubborn daughter (Kristen Scott Thomas) have far deeper connections to his father than he might have anticipated, with an affair that lasted over twenty-nine years. He blames them for the downfall of his parent’s marriage following a long and hard home life.
Kristen Scott Thomas, Kevin Kline

But the wonderful thing about the film is that it doesn’t stop there: Matthius is clinically depressed, blaming his father for his own shortcomings and inability to work. What results is an intimate study of the blame that settles on our parents for the cracks in our souls, and equally how hugely selfish and reckless some parents operate with no regard to their children. It’s amazing to watch Mathilde and Matthius argue, each so certain of their innocence and morality, when it is so clear to the viewer that neither should be so comfortable. Mathilde is finally confronted with her lover’s child, and family, she always knew about but was never allowed to care for, and Matthius must now conquer the fears he drowned in alcohol and women.

This film is just exquisite. Whatever the director, Israel Horovitz, did to make this adventure his debut feature from a rigid play, it should be bottled and sold. Kevin Kline has never been more bitter and unlikable, and Maggie Smith never more vulnerable and sincere, both doling out heart-wrenchingly sympathetic characters in My Old Lady. They are a match made in heaven, and without all the glamour and overly dramatic sequences of modern Hollywood–for the film practically takes place in the apartment. It is, quite simply, a breath of fresh air.

–Lottie Abrahams

My Old Lady openes in limited release on September 10, 2014


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