There is much to hope for in Israel Horovitz’s “My Old Lady.” The film stars notable screen actors Kevin Kline, Kristin Scott-Thomas and the great Maggie Smith. Yet, for what this movie gains with its cast, much is left to be desired.
The film is Horovitz’s directorial debut adapted from his play “My Old Lady.” The story follows Mathias Gold (Kevin Kline), a 57-year-old alcoholic who spends what little money he has to fly from New York to Paris to claim an old apartment he has inherited from his estranged father. Upon arriving there he discovers a 92-year-old woman named Mathilde Girard (Maggie Smith) and her daughter Chloé (Kristen Scott-Thomas) who are living in the apartment. Mathias learns that under a unique French law, he cannot sell the property until the original owner — Madame Girard — dies. Until that point, he must pay monthly stipends to her. Mathias’ father had been paying her for decades, purely voluntarily. It is revealed much later that the two were a romantic pair in their youth.
Much can be said about the interactions between Kline, Scott-Thomas and Smith. They are all impeccable actors with great skill, and this type of film seems perfect for each of them. Unfortunately, the film reads like a play and each scene in the movie acts independently of the others, and the conflict is weak.
The film opens as a fun and whimsical piece with plenty of mild banter between characters. Moving into the second half, the story plunges deep into conversations regarding depression, suicide and addiction. The transition is so abrupt, it leaves one longing to return to the beginning of the film.
The film also relies on tiresome,overused movie tropes that take away from the strong character development built early in the plot. Mathias becomes a generic movie drunk who falls in love with his tenant’s daughter, Chloé, who seemed to dislike him until this moment..
“My Old Lady” had plenty of potential to be a great film. The film is well cast, but its characters are recycled from countless other movies. The setting is fitting, but forgettable. Unfortunately, the film lacks major cinematic quality.