“THE LADY IN THE VAN” My rating: B
104 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13
Imagine Maggie Smith’s Dowager Countess from “Downton Abbey” as an imperious, demanding bag lady.
That’s the premise of “The Lady in the Van,” and it is less off putting than this description suggests.
For one thing, it’s based on real events. Playwright Alan Bennett, who wrote the screenplay from his memoir, was for years host to Miss Shepherd, an old lady who lived in his London driveway in a series of rusting vans.
For this act of charity he was routinely dismissed by his ungrateful guest, who had her own way of doing things and saw no reason to change. Apparently she believed that this preferential treatment was rightfully hers.
The film from Nicholas Hytner (“The History Boys,” “The Madness of King George”) chronicles that bizarre relationship, which went on for 15 years.
There’s a temptation to regard Bennett (played by Alex Jennings) as some sort of saint. (After all, this “houseguest” saw to her bodily functions simply by squatting in the drive.)
So that we’ll know that Bennett wasn’t a holy fool or a complete sucker, he has written into the screeenplay conversations with himself.