The Lady In The Van

Maggie Smith’s Ms. Shepherd is “NOT a beggar!” although you could hardly blame someone for assuming so – she’s dirty, she lives in a derelict van, and her “self-employment” appears to consist of chalk imagesart on the street, and selling pencils. That van of hers is a neighbourhood nuisance; the people live in fear of when she might exercise her “Christian parking” principles beside their little bit of curb.

Alan Bennett wrote the screenplay,and is also ย a character in the movie, portrayed by the excellent Alex Jennings. This is based on a mostly true story. This woman, who elicited both sympathy and revulsion in her “neighbours”, was a nutshell that fascinated and

THE LADY IN THE VAN

inspired both Alan’s decency, and his creativity, when he moved into Camden in the 1970s.

Bennett is moved to have the mysterious lady in the van move into his driveway to keep her legal, though her obstinacy insists it is she doing the favour for him. She is most ungrateful but Bennett cares for her as best he can (and “caring” he intones, “is about shit”), always battling internally over what’s right and what’s right for him. Bennett-the-screenwriter isn’t shy about telling us what really the-lady-in-the-van-4happened, and what just makes for a nicer story. In fact, Bennett has conveniently split himself in two, the one who goes out and lives, and the one who stays home and writes.

The lady in the van lived outside Bennett’s home for two decades, a noble ย vagabond in greasy rags, living inside a grubby vehicle – one so convincing that the cast and director turned up one Monday morning to find that real homeless people had broken into it and spent the weekend inside, making use of it as two people might (the van’s video-the-lady-in-the-van-trailer-1-superJumbocontents had to be deep-cleaned before they could be made suitably grimy again for production). They filmed in the very driveway of the very home where Bennett lived at the time.

Smith’s performance is vital and infuriatingly nuanced. You haven’t seen Dame Smith like this before. This film is a feather in her already-decorated cap: not to be missed.

 

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16 thoughts on “The Lady In The Van

  1. John Charet

    I think you, Sean and Matt do a great job with this site ๐Ÿ™‚ I would comment on Lady in the Van, but I have not seen it yet, so I do apologize ๐Ÿ™‚ I loved Maggie Smith in both Robert Altman’s Gosford Park (2001) and Downton Abbey which was created by that film’s screenwriter Jullian Fellowes. Anyway, keep up the great work as always ๐Ÿ™‚

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  2. Brittani

    I missed this when it was in theaters, but I’m curious because Maggie Smith always gives a great performance. I’m glad to hear she does in this as well.

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    1. Jay Post author

      It’s hard when it’s written by Bennett himself! She was a recluse and we never do learn nearly enough about her, but I thought she dealt with the gaps and empty spaces so beautifully.

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  3. Pingback: 2016: Year of the Fabulous Ladies | ASSHOLES WATCHING MOVIES

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