Maggie Smith makes the most of the success of TV’s Downton Abbey by playing another wealthy dowager in comedy drama MY OLD LADY (12: Curzon).
The stiff upper lip of her character, Madame Girard, conceals some loose morals, which are gradually revealed when penniless New Yorker Mathias Gold (Kevin Kline) comes to take possession of her grand Parisian home.
He’s dismayed to find that, in accordance with an antiquated French law, he is obliged to let the eccentric elderly Englishwoman live out her days in the property, which has been bequeathed to him by his father.
He hopes to turn his fortunes around by selling the flat, but he’s unable to do so until after she dies. This leads to a series of attempts to get rid of his unwelcome tenant, and as he gets to know her he discovers a side to his father that he never knew.
Smith and Kline have great chemistry, but although Kristin Scott Thomas is on good form as Girard’s brittle but attractive daughter, her scenes with Kline aren’t as much fun.
Skeletons tumble out of the closet in rather a clumsy fashion, so it’s just as well that the refined cast are able to put some meat on those old bones.
> While there are plenty of laughs throughout, comedy drama THE SKELETON TWINS (15: Sony) has a melancholic tone and the film goes to some dark places.
Best described as a bitter-sweet dramedy, Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader play estranged siblings Maggie and Milo, who are reunited after the latter’s failed suicide attempt.
Though Maggie seems to have her life together, it soon becomes clear that she’s just as messed up as Milo, and the two of them struggle to repair their fractured relationship.
From here, the story follows a fairly predictable path, but the picture is peppered with some joyous sequences, like Maggie and Milo lip-syncing to infectious 1980s anthem Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now.
Wiig and Hader also provide highly impressive dramatic performances, while Luke Wilson is amusing as Maggie’s relentlessly positive husband.
> There are no Hunger Games in the penultimate instalment of the Hunger Games series. Instead we get a society quivering on the cusp of all-out civil war in THE HUNGER GAMES: MOCKINGJAY PART 1 (12: Lionsgate).
The hidden dissidents of Panem’s District 13 are preparing to take on the might of the Capitol, with Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) the reluctant face of their revolution, while Josh Hutcherson’s Peeta is still a pawn of Donald Sutherland’s dastardly ruler.
This adaptation of the first part of the final novel takes us down a hole, to the underground headquarters of the rebellion led by Julianne Moore.
Its predecessors worked better as individual movies, with Part 1 feeling like a bridging film, but Lawrence delivers complexity and conviction and matters are left excitingly poised for the Part 2 climax.
This transitional effort’s teething problems aside, it’s crammed with well-drawn characters and intelligent ideas, meaning the franchise remains as robust as ever.
> In PRIDE (15: Twentieth Century Fox) it’s the summer of 1984, Margaret Thatcher is in power and the National Union of Mineworkers is on strike, prompting a London-based group of gay and lesbian activists to raise money to support the strikers’ families.
Initially rebuffed by the union, the group identifies a tiny mining village in Wales and sets off to make their donation in person. Starring Bill Nighy and Imelda Staunton.