I just finished Season 2 on Netflix. Frankly, I liked Season 1 better. It picks up twenty years later so don’t expect to drool over Richard Madden again. However, you may like the new Lorenzo de ‘Medici played by Daniel Sharman.
There is a lot of continual conflict between the Medici and Pazzi families that seemed to go on and on, which creates a lot of rehashing in episodes of why this feud has continued for so long. I ended up with a few fast-forwards on the remote control.
Regardless, I’m glad there will be a Season 3 and hope that I will find it more to my liking as Lorenzo continues his influence on Florence.
Let me preface this review by stating that the British do make quirky movies. You can put The Lady in the Van into the very quirky category. Believe it or not, it’s a true story that had been told previously in a book form and on stage. Alan Bennett, the author, tells of his relationship with the homeless (except for her van) Mary Shepherd. Wonderful and talented Maggie Smith has played this role both on stage and film.
The story centers around an elderly woman who drives a dilapidated van. She favors Alan’s neighborhood and moves the van from house to house early in her arrival. The neighbors tolerate her presence and attempt to be kind, offering her food and the like, but she’s undoubtedly the most cantankerous old lady you’ll meet.
Alan is a bit of an oddball himself in this story. He’s a playwright by trade, and you see him much of the time writing about this fifteen-year experience with Mary (or maybe it’s Margaret – nobody is sure). In his own oddball way, he has a double of himself in the storyline – the one who lives life – the other who writes about life. Alan is also dealing with his aging mother as the story unfolds.
Mary Shepherd is an interesting character herself, having lived in her youth as a gifted pianist. Twice she attempts to become a nun but the church doesn’t believe she’s nun material. When an accident happens in her van years before, she is plagued with the belief that she had killed someone. The guilt sends her down a spiral hole of despair from which she never recovers.
Lady in a Van is an interesting character study, set in a very small portion of London with occasional visits elsewhere. There is plenty of screen time with her van that eventually ends up parked in Alan’s driveway for the period of fifteen years. Maggie Smith’s costumes consist of filthy clothing and a pigsty of a location, but she shines as usual with her talent. You may, however, find the role a bit shocking and beneath her abilities from the grand Dowager Countess of Downton Abbey to a grungy, grumpy, and stinky old lady. However, since Maggie has owned this role in the past on stage, I dare say she was the only one to do it justice on film.
In the end, it’s the story of where life can take an individual. As an elderly woman, she appears to have no more worth than the rags she wears. Nevertheless, underneath all the filth is a woman who was once revered and applauded.
Currently streaming on Starz is a spectacular series in six parts entitled Maximilian and Marie de Bourgogne. It’s a German-Austrian co-production that I found extremely well done for a period piece, not at all minding the German and French spoken throughout with English subtitles. The story is engrossing enough to keep you glued to the dialogue as you are immersed in another time in history: 1477. Dust off your history books, because if you’re like me you’ll be glad to know this storyline does a good job of keeping to the historical facts. To add to the authenticity of this period drama are the sets and costumes that are well done, as well as the musical score.
The story centers around two key players in the chessboard of the fifteenth-century politics in Europe. Marie is the daughter of Charles the Bold, the Duke of Burgundy, who is killed in battle by the French. With no male heir, Marie is made duchess. However, Burgundy is a male fiefdom and from day one she becomes the pawn of those in power in Burgundy and France, each attempting to wield their political maneuvers. She is encouraged to marry the Dauphin of France, who is a mere boy, as France wants Burgandy back in its power.
Then, in a faraway land of Austria, resides Maximilian, the son of the Holy Roman Emperor. He is encouraged to wed Marie but balks at the idea until circumstances finally lead him to Burgundy. Like a knight in shining armor, with integrity and purpose, he comes to save the day. The series is a sweeping story of war, politics, and endearing love between two young people. Unfortunately, in real life, and portrayed with such emotion it made me cry at the end, their happiness is ended by tragedy.
I think what I liked about this series is the wonderful job the two leads did, emotionally portraying these historical characters learning to rule. Many of the children of the main monarchs in this tale — France and Austria are merely pawns of their parents in arranged marriages to other kingdoms.
Anyway, highly recommend if you have Starz. If not, you can get it on Amazon for $8.95 a month or purchase each episode for $2.99. It’s worth just paying $8.95 to watch the six episodes and then you can cancel.
There are a few sex scenes but tame compared to Outlander’s first two seasons. Also, it’s a brutal time of war and torture so you may see some unsettling scenes but it’s not overly graphic and gory.
Oh, and as a matter of trivia, Queen Elizabeth II is a descendant of Maximillian, which makes his character even more interesting.