A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that My Old Lady revolves around very messy, long-hidden family secrets that finally are revealed, disrupting the lives of three people (none of whom is particularly admirable) who are all nursing old wounds. There are some intense arguments, and orecovering alcoholic falls off the wagon in a spectacularly unpleasant relapse. Profanity is very sparing, which makes the words ("d--k," "s--t") have an even stronger impact when they're heard. There's also some kissing, off-screen sex, and casual/social drinking.
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What's the story?
Mathias (Kevin Kline) is a playwright who hasn't written anything worthwhile, has seen three marriages fail, and is left with little to his name save a beautiful, if rundown, apartment in a prime spot in Paris that he inherited from his father. When Mathias finally arrives in France to claim it, he discovers that it's not quite his: A 92-year-old tenant, Mathilde (Maggie Smith), still lives there, with her daughter, Chloe (Kristin Scott Thomas), in an arrangement known as a viager. According to French real-estate law, Mathilde can stay there until she dies -- and she's a sprightly sort -- and Mathias is obligated to give her monthly payments to retain his right to the property. And as if this weren't complicated enough, Mathias discovers that he didn't know his father much at all.
Is it any good?
Playwright Israel Horovitz directs this cinematic version of his same-named stage play, and he elicits some of Kline's best work. The man truly isn't appreciated for the gift that he is, acting-wise, and here he has much to work with; Mathias is a broken man clinging to a life that he hopes turns out better than it has been. And his jousting partner is the Dame Maggie Smith, who never gives an inch, making for spectacular performances.
But My Old Lady is limited by its structure. Complication after complication is unraveled, but there's not enough momentum as a story as rich as this needs. A plot twist in the third act places a budding romance in jeopardy, but the hindrances feel a little contrived. And, tonally, the film lurches this way and that, quirky and humorous one moment, dark and depressing the next. As a peek into a little-known French structure for property ownership, it's fascinating. As a study in human behavior, it's intriguing. But on the whole, it's only OK.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about My Old Lady's messages. What are audiences intended to take away from the film? Are the characters meant to be seen as role models?
What do you think about the relationship between Mathias and Chloe? How does it change through the course of the film, and does that seem like a natural progression?
How did Mathias' father treat Mathias when he was growing up? Why was he so cold to Mathias' mother? What impact did that have on both of them?
- In theaters: September 10, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: January 27, 2015
- Cast: Kevin Kline, Maggie Smith, Kristin Scott Thomas
- Director: Israel Horovitz
- Studio: Cohen Media Group
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters
- Run time: 107 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG-13
- MPAA explanation: thematic material and some sexual references
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.