lady in the van

Who doesn’t like Dame Maggie Smith? The actress even has fans amongst the kiddies, thanks to her performance as Professor Minerva McGonagall in the Harry Potter franchise. Potter and Downtown Abby aside, she’s done great work throughout her career, both on and off the stage. We’ll next see her in an adaptation of a stage play, Lady in the Van, which she starred in, before the year ends.

Watch the Lady in the Van trailer after the jump.

The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this year. Director Nicholas Hytner‘s film, adapted by Alan Bennett (who also wrote the play), has a 100% on Rotten Tomatoes at the moment. Granted, that’s with just 12 reviews, but still. The trailer for The Lady in the Van promises a heartwarming, quirky and conventional dramedy — which is pretty much what the critics had to say about the film back in September.

Here’s the trailer for The Lady in the Van:

This is Hytner’s third adaptation of Bennett’s work. Their last collaboration, The History Boys, is a very fun and charming movie that went under the radar back in 2006. Bennett is a clever writer, so with The Lady in the Van, we should expect more than a bunch of “look at this cooky old lady!” jokes, which is all the trailer is really selling.

Here’s TIFF’s official description:

Based on Alan Bennett’s memoir and hit West End play, this brilliantly witty, “mostly true” story chronicles an unlikely friendship between a writer and the elderly eccentric who takes over his driveway.

All sorts of people wash up in Camden, the London borough where playwright Alan Bennett (Alex Jennings) buys himself a house just big enough for him and his roommate, Alan Bennett (also Alex Jennings). “The writer is double,” Bennett explains. “There is the self who does the writing and there is the self who does things.” This is a story about the one who, however reluctantly, does things — like allow Miss Mary Shepherd (the inimitable Dame Maggie Smith) to park in his driveway. Miss Shepherd is homeless. Ornery, impolite, and bullying, she claims to take advice from the Virgin Mary. And she smells bad. But Alan, despite his very private nature, takes pity on her and says she can stay there for three months.

Perhaps he’s also a little curious. Where did she find this van? Where did she learn French? And who is that strange man (Jim Broadbent) who keeps coming round in the middle of the night? Miss Shepherd seems to have led a life so much more interesting than Alan’s. Perhaps some of that interest will rub off on him. There will certainly be plenty of time for that to happen as she tests the limits of his hospitality, stretching the three months into fifteen years.

The Lady in the Van is playful, inventive, and relentlessly funny. Directed by Nicholas Hytner (The History Boys) with swift pacing and a seasoned sense of mischief, the film reminds us of the value of taking a chance on strangers — and of the long road that gradually turns strangers into friends.

Lady in the Van opens in limited release on December 11th.

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