The Lady in the Van
Starring: Maggie Smith, Alex Jennings
Written by: Alan Bennett
Directed by: Nicholas Hytner
How good is this movie?
A quirkily entertaining and stoutly unsentimental look at the relationship between a homeless woman and a playwright. Although there are other films in which one of the characters is also the writer, it is more up-front than most about its own status as adaptation. I appreciated the moments when Alan interrupts the story to explain what really happened and what is his own embellishment. I also enjoyed the device of having Alan-as-writer converse with Alan-as-character.
How ace is this movie?
Sex and romance play little part in the story or in the lives of its characters. Miss Shepherd shows no interest in either, and while in the convent had more trouble giving up music than sex. Alan is single, lives alone, and has no interest in girls. The reason is that he is gay, but in the conservative world of the 1970s he has to be discrete, and the few hints we get suggest a sex life limited to rare and fleeting encounters. Alan frequently jokes about his lack of sexual experience or understanding – something many aces should find easy to relate to. One of the film’s funniest lines comes when a reporter asks if his first play was based on his life experience, and Alan explains that it was actually based on his reading. He goes on to say that his next play was about sex, then volunteers: “I read about that, too.” Alan does acquire a boyfriend at the film’s end, but this passing revelation, while it gives him a kind of happy ending, isn’t really important to the main story. Ultimately, the film is about his relationship with Miss Shepherd – which is neither sexual nor romantic.
3.5 Stars; 3 Aces