I don’t remember this film in 2014, but it’s worth watching. Maggie Smith, Kevin Kline, and Kristen Scott Thomas star in respected playwright Israel Horowitz’s directorial debut. Horowitz adapted his own play for the screen and it feels like a play. Kline arrives in Paris to check out the apartment he inherited upon his estranged father’s death to find that Smith has a sort of life estate in the apartment due to a quirk of French real estate law. Smith delivers the acerbic and witty lines we’ve come to expect from the Dowager Countess. Kline is a perfect scoundrel whose glib confidence gives way to a darker side. Scott Thomas, Smith’s dutiful daughter, is rightfully skeptical of Kline’s motives. As you might guess, these three have more in common than the apartment.
[For The Movie Snob’s rather different opinion about this movie, click here.]
My Old Lady (D). Despite its great cast, I did not like this movie. Kevin Kline (A Prairie Home Companion) stars as Jim, an American loser who has just inherited a very valuable Paris apartment upon the death of his estranged father. But when he spends his last dime to go to Paris and sell the thing, he discovers it is occupied by an elderly lady named Mathilde (Maggie Smith, TV’s Downton Abbey), and that he doesn’t actually get the apartment until she dies. And on top of that, he has to pay her a princely sum every month, or he loses it all. And on top of that, Mathilde’s daughter Chloe (Kristin Scott Thomas, Salmon Fishing in the Yemen) also lives there, and she immediately develops an intense loathing for ol’ Jim. Based on a play, this is a very stagy movie with lots of dramatic monologues. As the climax approached, I thought the characters behaved in an unbelievable and rather icky fashion. In short, the script let the actors down. Sadly, I must recommend that you skip this one and stick to Downton Abbey for your Maggie Smith fix.
After having seen this movie my only conclusion is that one of the producers of the movie must have a series of compromising photographs of Steve Martin, Kevin Kline, and Beyoncé. Nothing else could possibly explain why this movie was made. Well, money. Money could explain it. Remarkable to me that at this point in their careers any of the three of these actors need any money. Kevin Kline’s wife is an actress … they must have gobs of moo-laa. Steve Martin is not married and has no children … he probably has a few million stuck in his sofa. Beyoncé? Isn’t she the only one that really was Bootylicious and as such doesn’t she have all of the cash from her all-powerful girl group? I was so thoroughly disappointed with this film that I am going to stop asking for the advice of the sixteen year old working at my local Blockbuster. Save yourself the time and pain. Rent the original Pink Panther. Not any of the sequels. The original. Get some popcorn. Put on some clothes from the late 70s or early 80s and have a good time. I give The Pink Panther with Steve Martin a “D.” I give The Jerk an “A.” I give the original Pink Panther an “A.”
A Prairie Home Companion (B). I saw this movie last weekend, but I’m only now getting around to blogging about it. It’s just a comfortable little movie with a few laughs and a lot of nostalgia. I’ve never listened to Garrison Keillor’s long-running radio show of the same name, but the premise of this movie is that his radio station up in Minnesota has been bought out by some soulless Texas corporation, and the action all takes place during his last show from this old-timey theater. It’s a variety show with performers like a past-their-prime sister act (Lily Tomlin, Nashville; Meryl Streep, Hope Springs) and a couple of joke-telling and singing cowboys (Woody Harrelson, Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri; John C. Reilly, Walk Hard). A very skinny Lindsey Lohan (Mean Girls) shows up as Streep’s suicide-obsessed, bad-poetry-writing daughter. Kevin Kline (My Old Lady) is on hand as Guy Noir, the theater’s bumbling but dapper security chief. And Tommy Lee Jones (The Homesman) shows up as the corporate heavy from the Lone Star State. An enjoyable wisp of a movie.