THE LADY IN THE VAN (director: Nicholas Hytner; screenwriter: Alan Bennett/play by Alan Bennett; cinematographer: Andrew Dunn; editor: Tariq Anwar; music: George Fenton; cast: Maggie Smith (Miss Mary Shepherd), Jim Broadbent (Underwood), Alex Jennings (Alan Bennett), James Corden (Street Trader), Frances De La Tour (Mrs Vaughan Williams ), Roger Allam (Rufus), Deborah Findlay (Pauline); Runtime: 104; MPAA Rating: PG-13; producers: Kevin Loader, Nicholas Hytner, Damian Jones; Sony; 2015-UK)

"It's fun watching the great Maggie Smith take on this eccentric role."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Nicholas Hytner ("Phedre"/"The History Boys"/"Center Stage") directs the crowd-pleasing dramedy from Alan Bennett's true experience play, that also starred Maggie Smith.

In the driveway of celebrated playwright Alan Bennett's North London upscale artist enclave, Camden Town crescent, the grouchy upper-crust vagrant Mary Sheperd (Maggie Smith) decides to make her makeshift home by living there in his driveway in her rundown van. The eccentric Alan Bennett (Alex Jennings), said nothing in 1973 when she moved in, and it went on for 15 years. The exhausting experience has the homeless lady leave her shit in plastic bags for the home owner to dispatch.

The fun is in watching Maggie pull out all her stops in portraying this anti-social creature who hates liberals, children and classical music. The story is slight, the truth at times seems questionable, the cutesy antics could get tiresome, but it's fun watching the great Maggie Smith take on this eccentric role.

Jim Broadbent plays a blackmailer of Maggie, in a part that throws the film off its mark and brings its final act to a screeching halt.

REVIEWED ON 3/27/2016       GRADE: B-

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"