The Lady in the Van Movie Review
The Lady in the Van is the type of well-reviewed dramedy that reminds you why you should never trust good reviews for British dramedies pulsing with quintessential British British-ness. A movie that lives up to its title and not much else, The Lady in the Van subjects its audience to just under two hours of Maggie Smith being a grinch to people and Alex Jenning playing the type of British character that make women everywhere want to be a with a man from any other country.
It's not that The Lady in the Van is a terrible movie. Smith delivers a fine if ultimately non-essential performance and the movie features many pleasing scenes of quaint British people interacting with other quaint British people as they do quaint British things that too are so non-essential it's hard to really care about any of it.
By the time the movie takes a more serious turn to dive into what drove Smith's character into a transient lifestyle (and to hate music, and people), it's too little, too late. By then you feel as old and meaningless as the characters in the movie--not to say that old people are meaningless, just that in The Lady in the Van no one really does much of anything other than talk about talking--and you don't really care.
Aside from Smith, the cast is instantly forgettable at best and annoying at worst. Most of the time you just want to punch Jenning's character in the face for no reason whatsoever, and he's arguably the main character. The issue may not be with him as much as the way the filmmakers frame the film, with the audience forced to experience Smith's life through this awkwardly pathetic figure who has no personality or purpose himself. Smith is solid, but through this lens her character, and in turn her performance, feels shallow and forgettable.
Clearly, The Lady in the Van worked for some people, and if you're the type of person who likes quaint British dramedies--and there are plenty of you--then this movie will likely appeal to you. But I've liked my fair amount of random British movies about nothing and still found very little of entertainment value here. It's best if you let the lady drive her van somewhere else.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.