Jonathan White’s review published on Letterboxd:
I didn’t know going in, but as the story progressed, I got that feeling that I get when a story is so absurd ( and not in that good absurd way I love ) and disjointed that it had to be based on true events. Sure enough.
I never bought into the charm of Florence, and I felt the screenplay didn’t give me a reason to. There must have been a reason to love this delusional socialite, and I would have loved to hear all about it, especially how she captured Bayfield’s heart. Perhaps director Stephen Frears was counting on Streep’s performance being lovable, and Hugh Grant exuding his usual boyish charm to win the hearts of the audience, and perhaps it did for some, or even most, but not for me.
I really couldn’t abide Simon Helberg as the nebbish pianist. I just kept getting a ‘sitcom acting’ vibe … a performance looking for the ‘ba-dum’ punchline and requisite laugh track. This was made even more painfully obvious by him performing against Streep and Grant
Maybe it’s Frears as a director, as I was similarly unimpressed with Philomena; another film with an A List phenomenally talented actor, in the that case Judi Dench, paired with a popular comedic TV actor, Steve Coogan, who for me falls between Grant and Helberg.
All I can say is that I think I’m done with quirky real life stories. While I love Maggie Smith, I doubt I’ll ever watch The Lady in the Van.