Rachel Smith ‘16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
My Old Lady is a dramedy all its own. The moment you think you have settled on your impression of a character or a plot point, it shifts to a polar opposite. It doesn’t keep you on the edge of your seat like an action thriller. It won’t have your belly aching with laughter like a Coen brothers film. But it will keep your emotions on a roller coaster from beginning to end and make you think about the people your actions affect. It seems we need more films that make you think rather than make you want to be a superhero. With an all-star cast and beautiful setting, this is a film you will be glad you saw.
Mathias (Kevin Kline) just inherited a very large, very profitable French apartment from his late estranged father. Once arrived in Paris, he discovers Madam Girard (Maggie Smith) lives in the apartment as a tenant of sorts. She soon explains to him that the apartment is technically hers until she dies and he cannot sell it until then. In fact, he owes her rent, because of a “viager,” an old French real estate law. Mathias spent all his money to get to Paris and now has to figure out a way to make money off the place.
He tries to calculate how much time there is before she dies. The 90-year-old Madam Girard is expected to live another 20 years based on her health. He then plans to go around the law and talks to real estate agents. In this time he is allowed to live with Madam Girard and her daughter Chloe (Kristen Scott Thomas). For some reason Chloe hates Mathias, not just because of the sale but also for something more personal.
You immediately fall in love with Madam Girard and wish that she were your own grandmother, as in most films Maggie Smith appears in. She is quick and witty, especially in her banter with Mathias. They are the true stars of the film both in their comedic encounters and the dramatic moments.
Mathias is the definition of a broken man. You won’t really like him until more than half way through the film. He clearly hates his father for sticking him with this apartment and not leaving him any money. His father was always in Paris and was absent most of his early life, thus resulting his Mathias’ three failed marriages, drinking problem, depression and overall terrible demeanor. These things get further explained and the film takes a turn from dark humor to dramatic and heartfelt.
The sudden shift in emotion is kind of abrupt and you see Mathias spiral out but it is necessary so you get on his side. Your perceptions of all the characters change from beginning to end.
There are beautiful shots of Mathias walking through Paris and the design of the apartment is perfectly detailed. They pay close attention to the small things that make the big moments even more dramatic or hilarious depending on the scene.
You will understand Chloe because she connects to her own inner demons through Mathias’ arrival. She has a moment of painful clarity but stays on both her mother’s side and Mathias’. Madam Girard is full of wisdom and you’ll learn that the decisions she made were not the most moral but in the moment she thought she was doing the right thing for herself and all the people involved.
The film touches on the themes of heartbreak, anger, love and forgiveness. All the basic human things that people sometimes forget to acknowledge are all key parts of this film and make it mildly relatable. If not relatable than it is at least an open book; one to be interpreted in whatever way is personal to the audience. That’s what makes the unconventional pieces of this film work. It’s not a film you’ll re-watch a hundred times and quote word-for-word, but it is definitely worth seeing.
Overall Grade: B-