My Old Lady

I’ve always treasured the memorable line from the dreadful TV series Petrocelli (1974-1976), “You’re dull, baby.” It would describe this film.

My Old LadyMy Old Lady is a perfect example of what has been wrong with films in America in 2014. It has a great cast, yet comes close to irritating you beyond description.

It calls upon the viewer to care about neurotic, mentally damaged people, and it is impossible to do so. Written and directed by Israel Horovitz, who created the stage play, it leaves you grasping for meaning at every turn.

What is so disappointing is that it stars Maggie Smith, Kevin Kline and Kristin Scott Thomas, who appear in 90% of the scenes. Kline plays Mathias Gold, a three-time divorced loser from America who has come to Paris to sell an apartment that is the only thing he inherited from his late, distant father. Upon doing so, he discovers that his father has signed a lease with Mathilde Girard, played by Ms. Smith, which gives her the authority to live in the dwelling until her death.

When the destitute Kline learns of this revelation, he is further shocked to be told that he has to pay a significant sum of money every month as part of his father’s contract. Traveling with one suitcase and seen repeatedly in the same brown sport coat and jeans, his last hope for a goldmine turns into a disaster.

As Kline wrestles with his past and his future, he then learns that Ms. Smith had a longstanding affair with his late father. On top of that, Ms. Smith’s daughter, Chloe Girard, played by the always capable Ms. Thomas, also lives in the dwelling. Everyone is bitter and angry, and you end up feeling the same way as you watch the film while hoping that it will reach a quick ending.

Any film that makes a character played by Maggie Smith hard to like has immense problems. While the always pleasant Mr. Kline has appeared in a growing list of average films for the past ten years, to make him play a role where his character is both annoying and hateful is brutally tough to watch.

From the previews, I was led to believe that this could be a very amusing comedy, but it is almost entirely devoid of humor. We’ve seen Kristin Scott Thomas go down this road before, so I should have been warned before buying a ticket.

For me, this is one of those rare films that I repeatedly resisted the urge to simply leave. Halfway through the film, I didn’t care how it ended, and I certainly didn’t as I stalked out of the theater. Given my devotion to the cinema, I had to laugh as I thought of the line from the song by Joan Jett and the Blackhearts’, “I Hate Myself for Loving You.”