Mathias Gold (Kevin Kline) is a down-on-his-luck New Yorker who inherits a Parisian apartment from his estranged father. But when he arrives in France to sell the vast domicile, he's shocked to discover a live-in tenant who is not prepared to budge.
His apartment is a viager — an ancient French real estate
system with complex rules pertaining to its resale — and the feisty
Englishwoman Mathilde Girard (Maggie Smith), who has lived in the
apartment with her daughter Chloé (Kristin Scott Thomas) for many years,
can by contract collect monthly payments from Mathias until her death.
With no place to go, Mathias strikes a tentative lodging arrangement with Mathilde, instantly clashing with suspicious, lovelorn Chloé over his private dealings with a rapacious property developer, who wants to purchase the apartment. An uneasy détente settles in as the quarreling Mathias and Chloé come to discover a common ground of childhood pain and neglect. As they draw increasingly closer, Mathilde unveils a complex labyrinth of secrets that unites the trio in unexpected ways.
Kevin Kline and the 79 year old Dame Maggie Smith star in this charming romance dramadey set in Paris. It is also Israel Horovitz' debut as filmmaker. At 75, Mr. Horovitz, is the author
of 70 stage plays. He took this one, popularly performed all over the
world in many languages, and said to be his favorite and adapted it for the screen. He directed and his daughter Rachael Horovitz produced.
The first act is a bit slow as we get to know the characters but the strong performances make it worth the wait. This is Kevin Kline like he is rarely seen,
dark, troubled and vulnerable. Maggie Smith is incredible as usual. She has
the knack for delivering a line, getting the most out of what the author
supplies to her.
Jim Gold (Kevin Kline) is an unsuccessful American writer, he has just arrived in Paris to collect
his inheritance, an old two-story apartment with a large attached
garden smack in the center of the expensive Marais district. His plan is to sell the apartment for some quick much-needed cash and get out of town. However, Mathilde Girard (Maggie Smith) is a 90something little old Englishwoman who happens to be living in it along whit her daughter Chloé
(Kristin Scott Thomas) who is irritable,
defensive, unmarried and determined that Mom won’t be going anywhere,
not any time soon anyway.
This is the setup for “My Old Lady,” a tale
of troubled family histories, the clashing of Franco-American culture and arcane
French real estate law.
Because of "viager", this French
concept of what amounts to a reverse mortgage, Madame Girard is grandmothered into the
apartment, that Jim Gold has inherited from his estranged father whom he hadn’t seen
in decades. He shows up to check out and sell his property and there she is — immovable because of the “viager.”
He owns the property, but only after she dies. The reverse annuity
contract means that not only can he not sell the property but he has to pay rent to her, as well. It’s all in his
“I own this apartment,” mutters Jim, whom Madame Girard insists on calling 'Mathias',..."And I own…you?”
Jim was born in Paris but left when his parents split up. He is now 57, has no job, no money and is the owner of a property he can do nothing with, at least not until his 'old lady' dies.
What’s more, she insists on getting her 2,400 Euros rent. "That’s a nice watch there,
Mathias". She says, implying that she will accept it as payment for the first month. "It's gold."
“You’re a pirate, Madame Girard!”
“How do you get to be 57 and 11 months and have so little to show for it?” She asks. The third act becomes a bit muddy as Horovitz attempts to add mystery where it is unnecessary. All in all it's a good film that should have been a great film, a bit disappointing considering the talented cast, but the performances alone are worth the time.