From grand dame to grub

The Tribune (NZ) - - REVIEWS - PETER LAMPP

Dame Mag­gie Smith re­cently won best ac­tress at the Bri­tish Bafta film awards for her wrinkly role in this odd movie.

The old Down­ton dame por­tray­ing a home­less, foul-mouthed filthy old duck long since gone to seed, liv­ing in a clapped-out van, still has plenty of pulling power. I felt she just looked lazily un­kempt and wor­thy of a good old fire-hos­ing, but there you are.

That I found her and her toi­let habits so dis­gust­ing was a trib­ute to Dame Mag­gie’s por­trayal. I’m cer­tain I could smell the cranky crone way back in my F-row seat.

The bludg­ing pongy cur­mud­geonly Miss Shep­herd (Mag­gie) cheek­ily parked her­self in play­wright Alan Ben­nett’s Cam­den Town, Lon­don, drive­way for 15 blim­min’ years, mainly be­cause Ben­nett was too timid for his own good.

The film opens with her be­ing chased by a traf­fic cop af­ter a bloody col­li­sion at an in­ter­sec­tion.

That seemed to have noth­ing to do with her be­ing a rude, semi-mo­bile squat­ter who took um­brage at kids play­ing mu­sic. It only made some sort of sense dur­ing the bizarre end­ing.

Parts of the story were true, but not the bit about there be­ing two Ben­nett brothers, one of whom nar­rated through­out.

Alex Jen­nings played both brothers in sim­i­lar mode to the way Tom Hardy played the Kray twins in Leg­end.

Ev­ery­one I polled had ex­pected a com­edy, no­tably a woman in seat G3 or 4 who clucked hi­lar­i­ously like Polly the Pul­let when­ever the old bat­tleaxe opened her trap.

The cluck­ing sub­sided when she, and we, re­alised this was not re­ally a com­edy. All of the funny lines were in the trailer. It is an off-beat bi­o­graph­i­cal drama with de­tri­tus, which though clev­erly made, drags de­spite the ster­ling ef­forts of an 81-year-old dowa­ger on the re­bound af­ter 52 episodes of be­ing the grand dame at Down­ton Abbey.

I’m cer­tain I could smell the cranky crone way back inmy F-row seat.


Miss Shep­herd, long-term free­dom camper played by Dame Mag­gie Smith with her un­wit­ting land­lord, play­wright and au­thor Alan Ben­nett played by Alex Jen­nings.

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