Based on the play by Israel Horovitz (also his directorial debut) is uneven in execution but stunningly acted by Kevin Kline, Maggie Smith and Kristin Scott Thomas.
Penniless, “Mathias (Jim) Gold” (Kline) arrives in Paris to collect his inheritance from his deceased father; an apartment inhabited by ninety-two-year-old “Madame Girard” (Smith); discovering the incomprehensible French law of “viager” which allows one to purchase a home at a reduced price, rent to whomever; the renter cannot be vacated, until death. Thus commences the corkscrew scenario: cloudy, undefined issues, slowly unveiled; problematic familial relationships lend a tautness to the theme; Madame “G’s” daughter “Chloe” (Thomas) seethes with anger and resentment at the interloper, Mathias, who has blasted her serenity and resolve to let the past lay dormant. Thomas’s succinct portrayal, controlled even when confronted with cataclysmic truths, proves repeatedly, she is an actor’s actor; her fluency in the French language, cascades as easily as water through a vibrant stream.
Kline, once again, burrows into his Shakespearean acuity, endowing Mathias’s pathos and pain immense integrity; his partnership with the “bottle” lends levity, pungent, powerful, exquisite prose to the murky plot. Dialogues between Mathias, Madame G, (Smith, always magnificent) and Chloe are achingly realistic in stripping the facile facades off the trinity of protagonists.
“My Old Lady”, is saved from a clumsy, at times convoluted narrative, by performances that transcend the vicissitudes plaguing three disparate, wounded personalities in Paris.