Movie Review: “The Lady in the Van”, Starring Dame Maggie Smith
Dame Maggie Smith (Professor Minerva McGonagall) has been busy promoting her latest film, The Lady in the Van, these past few weeks, including an interview with the Guardian, and she even made her first British chat show appearance in over 42 years last month when she appeared as a guest on The Graham Norton Show. The film, which is based on the stage play of the same name by Alan Bennett, tells the “mostly true” story of an elderly lady named Margaret Shepherd (Smith) who lived in a van on the driveway of Alan Bennett’s house for 15 years. Smith has taken on the role twice before, in the original 1999 London production and later in a 2009 radio adaption for BBC Radio 4.
Smith does an excellent job of bringing this eccentric character to life; fans of her character in Downton Abbey, the Dowager Countess of Grantham, already know of her impeccable comic timing, and she delivers a comedy masterclass throughout the film. She effortlessly commands every scene she is in, and I would be very surprised if she does not garner another Academy Award nomination for her performance as Shepherd. Watch her in action in a clip from the film below:
Two other former Potter alumni, Jim Broadbent (Professor Horace Slughorn) and Frances de la Tour (Madam Olympe Maxime), also feature in the film, and although their roles are much less substantial than Smith’s, they both deserve strong praise for their performances. British actor Alex Jennings also does a great job of portraying Alan Bennett; he gets some of the best lines of the film and works brilliantly alongside Smith.
Overall, The Lady in the Van is a great showcase of Smith’s acting talents, and it is superb to see her back on the big screen in a leading role. Check out the trailer below:
The Lady in the Van hits US theaters on January 15, 2016, and is released in the UK this Friday, November 13.