We've grown accustomed to the sight of the titular lady in our film as the Dowager Countess of Grantham––Her Ladyship indeed. As a lady of a different sort, she continues to engage with her talent. Maggie Smith portrays The Lady In The Van (2015, Rated PG-13, Available On DVD).
Miss Shepherd lives in her van. It's the sort of van that when Miss Shepherd chooses a neighborhood in which to park, the residents might offer some kindness––which Miss Shepherd disparages even when the kindness involves something she wants to eat––but they pray Miss Shepherd will move on.
The van is . . . how shall I put it? . . . unattractive, and foul smelling, as is Miss Shepherd.
Playwright and recipient of Miss Shepherd's largess because she parks the van at his house, Alan Bennett, begins the film this way:
Alan Bennett: [typing] The smell is sweet, with urine only a minor component, the prevalent odor suggesting the inside of someone's ear. Dank clothes are there, too, wet wool and onions, which she eats raw. Plus, what for me has always been the essence of poverty, damp newspaper. Miss Shepherd's multi-flavored aroma is masked by a liberal application of various talcum powders, with Yardley's Lavender always a favorite. And currently it is this genteel fragrance that dominates the second subject, as it were, in her odoriferous concerto.
[walking down the hallway]
Alan Bennett: But as she goes, the original theme returns, her own primary odor now triumphantly restated and left hanging in the house long after she has departed.
Flashbacks appear throughout the film so we learn why Miss Shepherd lives in a van, and why she believes she's on the run for a crime she committed.
I particularly like the "split" personality of Alan Bennett. He is two characters: Alan Bennett the writer who sees a possible story in Mary Shepherd, and Alan Bennett who lives in a house and wavers between kindness to Miss Shepherd and disgust at the way she lives, which includes an elaborate system for dealing with urine and feces.
The two Alan Bennetts (both played Alex Jennings) chat and argue with one another.
The Lady In The Van is filled with clever dialog that makes me chuckle:
Rufus: Sorry, you can't park here.
Miss Shepherd: No, I've had guidance. This is where it should go.
Rufus: Guidance? Who from?
Miss Shepherd: The Virgin Mary. I spoke to her yesterday. She was outside the post office.
Rufus: What does she know about parking?
Jehovah's Witnesses: [at the front door] Good afternoon. Does Jesus Christ dwell in this house?
Alan Bennett: No. Try the van...
Because the real Alan Bennett is a writer and he shares in this film the story of his "relationship" with Mary Shepherd, I shall try to write a bit tomorrow to fill you in on what is described as "mostly a true story." If you want to see the movie before learning backstory, then forego tomorrow's post––but that assumes I write one and I might not because I'm expected to undergo the thunderous rage of workers who hammer a new roof onto my house so I'll probably toss aside my laptop in favor of a shriek as I dash away with Franklin and Penelope.
Maggie Smith and Alex Jennings are lovely in The Lady In The Van, which earns The Janie Junebug Seal of Highest Approval in spite of the anticipation of shelling out thousands of dollars for a new roof when the current one doesn't leak and according to Carol's son does not need to be replaced, but the homeowners insurance company has me by the short hairs and they can force me to replace the roof when it's reached the end of its supposed lifetime or they will ever so happily cancel my insurance.
Hence, a new roof will be had, and so shall I.
I watched The Lady In The Van on a DVD sent by Netflix and delivered by my sometimes somewhat pleasant mail carrier.
Infinities of love,
Market Trader: Isn't it an especially lovely day sweetheart?
Miss Shepherd: Don't sweetheart me! I'm a sick woman. Dying possibly!
Market Trader: Chin up love. We all got to go sometime.
[under his breath]
Market Trader: Smells like you already have.