Time for a brain dump: scattered thoughts about random TV shows. These things made an impression lately. I was bored by high fashion, impressed by a gritty look at American policing, and sad to see an old favorite say goodbye. Continue reading “Brain Dump: The Collection, Shots Fired, Switched at Birth”
The Lady in the Van is a sweet comedy starring Maggie Smith as the lady in question and Alex Jennings as Alan Bennett and Alan Bennett. Alan Bennett is the real life playwright whose existence was invaded by a mysterious and eccentric lady in a van for 15 years. Alan talked to himself, hence Alex Jennings plays him twice. Continue reading “Review: The Lady in the Van”
Miss You Already is about two friends. One of them dies. True, it’s sad. It’s also funny and beautiful and bursting with love and joy. Don’t let the sad realities of life hold you back from enjoying the other parts of life.
This review contains spoilers.
Milly (Toni Collette) and Jess (Drew Barrymore) are childhood friends. They develop a lifetime bond. Milly is the bigger personality, the instigator, the adventurer. Her needs dominate and Jess often plays a supporting role in Milly’s life.
As children, they read Withering Heights by Emily Brontë together and laugh over it. When Milly is getting chemotherapy, they read it again. They use black Sharpies to draw moustaches on pretty women in magazines. They experience everything together. They laugh, oh, they laugh.
As adults, they lead separate lives but remain close. Milly marries a rock musician, Kit (Dominic Cooper). They have two kids when Milly is diagnosed with breast cancer.
Jess marries Jago (Paddy Considine). They want kids but are having problems getting pregnant in the beginning of the film. Their relationship is one of the lovelier parts of the film. Jago has a fabulous sense of humor.
A considerable part of the film is concerned with Milly’s medical condition and treatment: her reaction to it, Jess’s reaction to it, Kit’s reaction to it, the children’s reactions to it, her mother’s reaction to it. For a while she seems to respond to the treatment and get better, but alas, the cancer spreads.
Toward the end of the film, when Milly is in hospice and Jess is having her baby, Jess wants Milly there. Milly’s going, no matter how weak she is. Milly’s mother, Miranda (Jacqueline Bisset), puts her in a wheelchair and sneaks her out of hospice. As Jess is giving birth, with Milly finally beside her, Jago is watching from an oil rig in the North Sea on a very shaky connection. Three strong, hulky men who share his bunk space are watching and helping with the wifi. When Jago asks Miranda to hold the camera so he can see the baby come out, the reaction of the three big men is hilarious and one of the best laughs in the film.
Other characters who pass through the lives of Jess and Milly include Jill (Frances de la Tour), who does the obligatory shaving of the chemo hair and supplies a wig. There’s the cool and calm Athena (Shola Adewusi), the midwife who delivers Jess’s baby. There’s Ahmed (Mem Ferda), a cab driver who takes the two of them 250 miles north into the Yorkshire moors where they dance on the moors in the middle of the night and stay in a Brontë themed inn. That’s where Jess tells Milly that she’s finally pregnant. That’s also where Milly meets up with her temporary after-mastectomy lover Ace (Tyson Ritter).
Jess is disgusted by Milly’s affair. They argue. Jess takes a spill on the rocky moor. The fall endangers the baby and causes a temporary rift between them.
There is so much love and joy and humor in this film. Love is so rare and Milly and Jess have it in abundance – for each other, for their families. It’s more a story of a beautiful friendship than a story of loss.
Milly’s daughter Scarlett snuggles into Jess’s lap. She opens a magazine and uses a black Sharpie to draw a moustache on a pretty woman. It’s as if Milly is still there.The death scene, when it came, was quiet. Milly and Jess lay side by side in Milly’s bed at the hospice, holding hands. They fall asleep and only Jess wakes up.
The poignant moment for me was a scene after Milly’s death. Jess and Jago have a son about 2 years old now and a second child on the way. They are having a meal with Kit and his kids. Miranda is there with her new boy friend. Milly’s daughter Scarlett (Honor Kneafsey) snuggles into Jess’s lap. She opens a magazine and uses a black Sharpie to draw a moustache on a pretty woman. It’s as if Milly is still there.
The film isn’t perfect. The voice over at the beginning was hokey. The frequent extreme close ups of faces felt invasive. I wanted to push the movie screen back about 100 feet because those huge faces seemed to enter my personal space. (Even while feeling overwhelmed by the close ups on the big screen, I was thinking they would work well on my TV at a distance and smaller.) While much of it rang real and true, some of it was glossed over and not as real in the details. The film was set in England, but, oddly, the cast weren’t all using English accents. I don’t give it all the stars, but I give it a lot of stars!
Catherine Hardwicke directed the film. Morwenna Banks wrote the screenplay. I celebrate the fact that the film has a woman director, with more women behind the camera. I have so much YES! for women-led stories.
However, don’t dismiss this film as a chick flick. It isn’t a chick flick or a dick flick. It’s a story about true friendship and what it means in the lives of all the people around it – male and female, parents and children. Lucky are the few who have such deep bonds of friendship.
You can watch the trailer in an earlier post.
Images ©Roadside Attractions
The Lady in the Van stars Maggie Smith as a homeless woman, Mary Shepherd, who parks her van in a man’s driveway and leaves it there for 15 years. Alex Jennings plays writer Alan Bennett, the man whose driveway is appropriated. It’s based on a real story.
The film is based on a play by the same name by Alan Bennett, which he adapted for the film. Maggie Smith previously played Mary Shepherd in both the stage play and radio play of this story.
Smith looks like the grande dame of cranky in this story about an eccentric woman who just happened to find herself a home in the life of a writer who would turn her story into an award winning play.
Also in the film are Dominic Cooper, Frances de la Tour, Jim Broadbent, Sacha Dhawan, and many others.
The film opens in the US on January 15, 2016. Start your new year with Maggie Smith.