Thursday, August 11, 2016


Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,

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:

[first lines]
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,

Janie Junebug

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.


  1. Hi Janie - it is an excellent film ... I agree. That roof problem - I certainly hope it resolves itself easily and soon for you ... cheers Hilary

    1. Thank you, Hilary. The roofers were supposed to arrive by 8 a.m. It is 8:04, and I haven't heard a word.

  2. Sorry about the roof. We had rain coming in our house the day after we bought a car. It was not happy times here. Hope it gets sorted soon and they leave your short hairs alone.

    1. No rain coming in here. Merely a pissy homeowners insurance company who can cancel my insurance because my roof is getting older--as am I--but it's not leaking--and neither am I. The roofers didn't show. They're supposed to be here tomorrow instead. *sigh*

  3. I love films based on true stories and this one was marvelous! Maggie Smith was amazing!! No sugar coating on this character, that's for sure. Alex Jennings was also spot on. Thumbs up from me, too! :)

    1. I'm pleased that you liked it, too, but I guess I'd be surprised if you didn't.

  4. This is off-topic but...

    On Dixie's blog you wrote: "A rescue is being thought of."

    1,000 points for LOVE JANIE for the Winnie-The-Pooh reference! You just climbed 3 places on the Friend-O-Meter.

    Hmmm.... There was something else I wanted to say here. Now what was it?...

    "Think! Think! Think!"...

    ~ D-FensDogG
    'Loyal American Underground'

    1. I didn't know if anyone else would get the Pooh reference, but my children and I have made that statement to each other many times over the years. I'm happy that you know it. You, too, have become rather esteemed, especially since my buddy Cherdo told me good stuff about you.

  5. Oh, don't listen to anything Cherdo says! She's a born liar who should be running for political office somewhere.

    'THE HOUSE AT POOH CORNER' is one of my favorite books of all time, and that final chapter is the saddest thing that was ever written!

    [I'm off today and have been debating what I should watch. This discussion just helped me make up my mind: Walt Disney's 'THE MANY ADVENTURES OF WINNIE-THE-POOH'.]

    One line that I like to use when someone comes up with a good idea, or says something clever is "Discovered by ____. ____ found it."

    One of my oldest and best friends is nicknamed "Pooh". You've probably seen some of his comments on my BOTBs. Well, in a recent BOTB installment he said something I liked and I got to use that line PERFECTLY, just as it was written:

    "Discovered by Pooh. Pooh found it."

    Have you read 'THE WIND IN THE WILLOWS' by Kenneth Grahame? That's another huge favorite of mine, clocking in just barely behind 'Pooh'.

    I once wrote a manuscript for a children's book and the main character was a stuffed dog who was about 1/3rd Tigger, 1/3rd Mr. Toad, and 1/3rd whatever I brought to the character myself.

    Well, I'm off to watch my Pooh DVD now. I'll catch you later in the Hundred Acre Wood. If I'm not there, check Toad Hall.

    ~ Stephen (aka Trespassers William)

    1. I've seen you mention Pooh in some of the wild tales you tell. If one doesn't cry over that last chapter, then one has no heart. I've never read The Wind In The Willows. Don't know what's wrong with me. Before we go any further with murmurs of friendship, you must be made aware that I am a bleeding heart liberal. Now that you know, do you want to play Pooh sticks? "Hush. Hush. Whisper who dares. Christopher Robin is saying his prayers." Poor Christopher Milne. The other boys at boarding school tortured him over those lines and many others. A writer in the family is a curse and, I hope, sometimes a blessing.

  6. I saw this film about a month ago and we enjoyed it even if I can't give it a thunderous thumbs up I do give it my own seal as well:) I watched the extras on the DVD and found it helped me understand the film even more because they spoke to the real playwright. They also spoke about the special effects which were not as easy as one thinks when they have the 2 actors in the same room or even Mise-en-scene. How this man dealt with this lady is beyond me. I am also amazed that she was never taken away to a home either.

    1. I'm glad you like it, too. I don't remember watching the extras on the DVD. I don't know how I missed them because I love good extras.

    2. I thought about it for a while, and now I remember watching the extras. They were very good.

  7. Love Maggie Smith and will see this when it comes to Netflix.

    1. Maggie Smith can do anything. She even underwent chemo while filming a Harry Potter movie.

  8. I generally like your recommendations; I ordered ti!!

    1. One of these days I'll figure out a way to get you to like the Coen Bros. I swear I shall.

  9. I haven't seen this movie yet but several friends were Blah, about it.
    It is on my watch list.
    Roof problems are just a pain ! I hope they come tomorrow
    friggin #&^%*#**roofers. This is one time were You hope for no rain.

    Bellyrubs for the Gud Dugs !
    cheers, parsnip and thehamish

    1. Rita, Hilary, and Birgit like the movie, too. I don't mean to suggest that your friends don't have good taste, so I'll come right out and say it: Their taste is not as good as Rita's, Hilary's, Birgit's, and mine. I don't question your taste because you are thehamish's tall person who feeds him. thehamish would not live with someone who has bad taste.

  10. Hey Janie,

    Ah yes, quite the epitome of quintessentially British. If it didn't have James Cordon in it, it would have been better.

    Sorry to note your roof problems. If Maggie "Thatcher" was around, she might thatch your roof.

    I'm going now...


    1. Oh, dear friend, you stab me in the funny bone. James Cordon's carpool karaoke is a joy to me. He's barely in the movie, but I also happen to adore The History Boys, which has more of him. Thanks for The Iron Lady suggestion, but I don't think the insurance company would accept thatch.


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