Friday, May 25, 2012

You don't have to be of a certain age

I had to laugh when showing up for a noon time screening of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel at the Maple (also at Devonshire and Lakeshore). Virtually everybody in the theatre was women of a certain age – and the men they dragged there of course - mirroring the aged or elderly characters in this comedy-drama from Bill Madden (Shakespeare in Love).  Marigold has a stellar cast of some of England’s top actors – of a senior age – and that is what has drawn in this crowd of PBS and British costume drama (Downton Abbey, anyone?) fans. The characters include Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson and Ronald Pickup. The film is all about retirees and their search for a little meaning, if a bit of fun, in the waning years of their lives. The group meets while in transit from London to Jaipur, India to retire to the Marigold Hotel, which is a little down at the heels compared to what the brochures said. It’s run by super enthusiastic Sonny (Dev Patel of Slumdog Millionaire) who’s never at a loss for talking up the positive when there is negative all around. Each person in this ensemble has their own story of course. Dench (Evelyn) has sold off her English home to pay her late husband’s debts and finds work as a call centre consultant. Smith (Muriel) is a former housekeeper, released from employment and who ironically must go to India for a cheap hip replacement among people she, a racist, looks down on. Wilkinson (Graham) is a retired high court judge who returns to India, his boyhood home, in part to find his long lost homosexual lover. Nighy (Douglas) and Jean (Penelope Wilton) are a long married couple whose relationship is coming apart at the seams. Norman (Pickup) and Madge (Celia Imrie) are both on the make except not for each other. This movie is more fun than I expected with plenty of good lines from a cast that mocks themselves as much as anything. (Madge: “single by choice just not my choice”; Muriel: ”if I can’t pronounce I can’t eat it”). But there is enough gravity to create well-rounded stories with the underlying levity of Sonny’s eternal off-kilter optimism. You don’t have to be of an advanced age to enjoy this.

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