'My Old Lady' is smoothly directed and rings true emotionally

'Lady' stars Kevin Kline as a man who inherits a Parisian apartment only to discover that its tenants have no intention of leaving.

Courtesy of Cohen Media Group
'My Old Lady' stars Kevin Kline (l.) and Maggie Smith (r.).

Israel Horowitz, age 75, has made his directorial debut with “My Old Lady,” adapting his 2002 play about a beaten-down, thrice-divorced 60-ish New Yorker, Mathias Gold (Kevin Kline), who inherits a Parisian apartment from his estranged father. To his dismay, the place is occupied by a tenant, a 92-year-old Englishwoman, Mathilde (Maggie Smith) and her daughter, Chloe (Kristin Scott Thomas). Because of a complex French real estate system called viager, she can resist eviction and collect monthly payments from Mathias until her death.

Horowitz does a smooth job of keeping the action focused without seeming stagebound – bringing the streets and lights of Paris into the picture certainly helps – and the performers make the best of their best lines. Smith is not playing the usual “Maggie Smith” role; she’s softer, not quite as imperiously forbidding as usual. The material veers a bit too predictably from near farce to serioso dramatics but the trajectory here makes emotional sense. Grade: B (Rated PG-13 for thematic material and some sexual references.)

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