“The Lady in the Van”: Alan Bennett remembers the woman who never left



“The Lady in the Van” opens Friday at Sundance Cinemas. PG-13, 1:44, three stars out of four.

What would possess a man to not only help a homeless person, but to let that person live on his property for 15 years? Heroism? Selfessness? Generosity?

Timidness, Alan Bennett insists.

The British playwright and essayist really let a homeless woman park her van in his driveway for 15 years. He turned the experience into a play and now a movie, “The Lady in the Van,” in which the dyspeptic Bennett (played to a T by Alex Jennings) recoils at the notion that he’s being kind “It’s just easier,” he insists almost defensively to a neighbor. “It’s not kindness.” Sure.

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“A Perfect Day”: War is hell, and peace is no picnic either


“A Perfect Day” opens Friday at Sundance Cinemas. R, 1:46, two and a half stars out of four.

War is hell, and cleaning up afterwards is no picnic either.
That’s the message coming from “A Perfect Day,” a black comedy that’s the English-language debut from Spanish writer-director Fernando Leon de Aranoa (“Mondays in the Sun”). The film is set in the Balkans during the 1990s, but focuses not on those who fought in the conflict, but humanitarian aid workers who came from other countries to help the innocents caught in the middle.

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Instant Gratification: “Meru” and four other good movies to watch on streaming



Pick of the week: “Meru” (Amazon Prime) — My full review is here. And you think YOU’RE COLD. Blanket up and watch this thrilling documentary about three climbers who attempt to scale the 21,000-foot Himalayan peak nicknamed the “Shark’s Fin,” fall 100 feet short, and then overcome personal tragedies to try again. Co-directed by one of the climbers, Jimmy Chin, the film gives you a terrifyingly authentic sense of what it’s like to undertake one of these expeditions, as well as insight into what sorts of people would spend their lives doing so.

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“The New Girlfriend”: A sex farce, backwards and in high heels


It’s been said that Ginger Rogers was a better dancer than Fred Astaire, because she had to do everything Astaire did, only backwards, and in high heels. That old quote comes to mind when watching Francois Ozon’s frothy sex farce “The New Girlfriend,” now out on DVD from Cohen Media. It may not have the weightiness of Ozon films like “Swimming Pool” or “Under the Sand,” and may be a little behind the times in its trans politics. But what it does, it does with a cheeky grace — and backwards, and in high heels.

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