Now out on Blu-ray and DVD, My Old Lady (PG-13, 107 minutes) is based on a play by revered playwright Israel Horovitz, and if you’re expecting a charming comedic confection with Kevin Kline and Maggie Smith, then you’ve just skimmed the surface.
Mathias Gold (Kevin Kline) is an embittered 57-year-old New Yorker who inherits his recently deceased father’s Parisian apartment. Thrice divorced and in desperate need of financial liquidity, Mathias is intent on selling the domicile at a huge profit.
Mathilde (Maggie Smith) and her daughter Chloé (Kristin Scott Thomas) are the apartment’s longtime residents, and under a French real estate law known as viager, Mathias must actually pay Mathilde, the previous owner of the state, rent until she dies. Once she passes, Mathias can immediately sell the apartment and live the rest of his life in the lap of luxury.
Although “My Old Lady” could have been framed as a light comedy wherein the initial combatants develop a profound friendship, Horovitz takes his narrative to more ambitious and darker territories, as Mathias’ flippant attitude masks a tragic past which is understandably hard to shake.
“Precision is the key to long life – precision and wine,” says Mathilde during her first dinner with Mathias. That similar quality is shared by debut filmmaker Horovitz, whose snappy and pinpoint dialogue are among “My Old Lady’s” many strengths.
With cinematographer Michel Amathieu, Horovitz bathes My Old Lady in the warmest of colors (almost as rich Mathilde’s preferred red wines), and while a healthy portion of the story is set within the apartment, there’s a refreshing sense of space within each frame. Whether it’s hitting thematic or visual notes, “My Old Lady” is that rare drama that allows the narrative, along with the characters who inhabit its universe, room to breathe.
Kevin Kline, Maggie Smith, and Kristin Scott Thomas are all Oscar winners, and watching them weave through Horovitz’s cleverly crafted words is a pleasure to watch.
I’m not going to spoil the unexpected turns you’ll discover in “My Old Lady” and let you luxuriate within, as one of the character describes, “the blood of Paris.” A deft and occasionally heartbreaking mix of comedy and drama, My Old Lady thankfully doesn’t go gentle into that good night.
92 Street Y Annette Insdorf Interview with Kevin Kline & Writer/Director Israel Horovitz (57:33) – This is a first rate and informative discussion that’s part of the Reel Pieces movie series, as Horovitz delves into his lifelong friendship with mentor/father figure Samuel Beckett. At the end of the conversation, Horovitz also explains how a chance meeting with Alma Singer (Isaac Singer’s widow) inspired part of “My Old Lady’s” story.
Kevin Kline also talks about why he’s very picky with his projects (He’s been dubbed Kevin “De-Kline”) and he elaborates about his extensive work in the theater.
***Kevin Kline and Kristin Scott Thomas previously played husband and wife in the drama “Life As A House.”
***Maggie Smith and Kristin Scott Thomas played mother and daughter in Robert Altman’s feature “Gosford Park.”