I went to see The Lady in the Van at the cinema last Sunday night.
It is a great testament for my undying love for Alan Bennett that I would go to the cinema for him.
I used to love going. I used to go two or three times a week, right into my mid twenties. Then I had children. Cinema going changed. Nobody told me I would have to sit through Elf, accompanied by endlessly moaning, perpetually restless children and the all encompassing smell of burning popcorn. Yes Miriam Stoppard. I am looking at you here. You were curiously quiet on that front weren’t you? Probably got a bung from the BFI.
Once I got back to going as an adult again, I realised that cinema trips had changed in a different way. People approach going to the cinema as if they are watching something they’re being filmed for Gogglebox for these days, only they pay £12 for the privilege, and no bugger is filming them. Plus, it just shows you how difficult being an entertaining Goggleboxer is, because most people make an utter hash of it, and you just end up sitting on your hands for ninety minutes trying to resist the urge to brain them with a chair you’ve ripped out of the row in front.
Hence my habitual cinema avoidance unless there is something so utterly splendid on that I simply cannot wait for the DVD.
The Lady in the Van ticked that box, and we trouped out on a brass monkey’s evening to our local arts’ cinema. Luckily only ten other people were brave enough to join us, and it was a splendid thing altogether, apart from the twenty years worth of trailers and utterly shite adverts beforehand, of course.
I love The Lady in the Van. I have read the book and seen the play. Now I have seen the film, I only need the t-shirt for the full set.
As an aside, wouldn’t it be bliss if someone did a range of Alan Bennett t-shirts? I would have to buy a whole set in every colour, as a matter of urgency.
The joy of the film is that Nick Hytner directs it, as he did with the adaptation of The History Boys, which I also love. Hytner has worked with Bennett many times over the years in his role as director at the National Theatre, and you can see the closeness with which they work in the faithful way he works with Bennett’s adaption and brings it to life on the screen. You can also see almost everyone either of them have ever worked with who is still alive in the film. It’s a joy to spot them.
I was particularly entranced by the cameos from Dominic Cooper, James Corden and Russell Tovey, all of whom got their big break from the stage and film adaptations of The History Boys. The whole cast was wonderful, as you might expect, and one must of course single out Alex Jennings for his marvellous double act as Alan the writer and Alan in real life, and Maggie Smith for her bravura performance as Miss Shepherd.
My friend Henri went to see the film on Friday, and her assertion that Maggie Smith looks like an angry tortoise was not far off the mark, but goodness me, she is an angry tortoise who can act.