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Review: 'My Old Lady' is a so-so play adaptation with killer performances

Kevin Kline, Maggie Smith and especially Kristin Scott Thomas shine in "My Old Lady," about an aging American in Paris dealing with an old tenant.

The back of Kevin Kline's head dines with Maggie Smith in "My Old Lady." Credit: Cohen Media Group The back of Kevin Kline's head dines with Maggie Smith in "My Old Lady."
Credit: Cohen Media Group

‘My Old Lady’
Director: Israel Horovitz
Stars: Kevin Kline, Maggie Smith
Rating: R
2 (out of 5) Globes

What: Kevin Kline plays a disheveled American in Paris to take over his late father’s luxurious apartment, only to find it’s still inhibited by one of his former tenants: a nonagenarian played by Maggie Smith (who’s only 78).

The lowdown: “My Old Lady” is based on a play and stars three actors — the other is Kristin Scott Thomas, who plays Smith’s daughter — which means it should allow scene after scene, minute after minute of three seasoned pros going at it. But the story keeps getting in the way. It’s a moderately amusing story if overly familiar, with Kline gradually warming to the maybe-not-so-dotty geriatric in his midst, and falling for her maybe-not-so-strident spawn.

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The actors try to make it work. Kline is animated in his grouchiness, while Scott Thomas weaves between hostile and vulnerable so masterfully the film could have been about her. Smith’s role is an afterthought, but she’s mesmerizing, whether she’s being fragile or unexpectedly confident. The film has pat Psych 101 explanations for them all and eventually orders them to break down and/or cry, though only Thomas handles this with actual aplomb. (In fact, she's downright heartbreaking, all the more impressive given how little she's working with.) But when it’s just them chatting away, it doesn’t matter what beneath-them silliness they’re forced to go through.

Follow Matt Prigge on Twitter @mattprigge

 
 
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