"India, India, India, five letters, three syllables flows off the tongue, adheres to the mind, is an aphrodisiac for many, venom for a few; India, a country of extremes, either embraces or repels; neutrality, anathema."
I wrote this summary after my third visit to this country that has imprisoned my spirit and continues to lure me back to its infinitesimal mysteries and attractions. It was with tremendous anticipation that I clamored to see "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" (for the elderly and beautiful); it happily exceeded my expectations.
Seven Brits, recognizing the perils of sinking into their dotage, find, via the Internet, the reasonable Marigold Hotel in Jaipur, India. They go for a myriad of issues: health, shrinking finances, seeking lost love, or just to step "outside the box" of inevitable stagnation.
Director John Madden ("Shakespeare in Love", "The Debt", based on the novel "These Foolish Things" by Deborah Moggach) gives us a pecan, a delectable treat to savor long after imbibing, improving with a second helping. Every character is beautifully defined, refined, original but recognizable: Judi Dench, gives a legendary performance as a vulnerable, debt-ridden widow, seeking employment in a call-center (an iconic scene revolves around her instructions to the young, nubile Indians on how to snag the attention of the surly, distracted "victim" at the opposite end of the line); through her "blog" she unveils her transformation, challenges, heartaches; Maggie Smith is the bad-tempered, avid misanthrope, needing a hip replacement, who inadvertently lends dignity to an "untouchable"; Tom Wilkinson, a barrister, returns after a forty-year hiatus to seek "the love of his life"; Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilton give pivotal performances as a couple who have reached the nadir of their relationship, one succumbs to India’s charms, the other withers.
The Marigold Hotel, its condition of decrepitude and /or rehabilitation is an apt metaphor for this unlikely crew of expats (they improve or regress in tandem with the hotel) and its incorrigible, inept proprietor "Sonny" (grand performance by Dev Patel, "Slumdog Millionaire") who in his delusional fantasies envisions the Marigold as the perfect segway, the final phase into the vast unknown.
Regardless of your chronological state "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" depicts a realistic, hilarious, joyful, unabashed romp of filmmaking at its pinnacle. I have always cringed at the insipid platitude: "you are as young as you think or feel" or those detested emails, gloating over the liberties in diet, dress, speech, etc. that are now allowed because you have exceeded the expiration date on restraints or civility. Age should bring sangfroid, levity and the simple pleasure, as one friend appropriately expressed "of waking up on the right side of the ground".
"The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" deserves a universal audience and stellar accolades for all people and places involved.
FOUR & 1/2 STARS!!!!
Wins the first round of the playoffs as one of the worst films of 2012. Two fine actors, Emily Blunt and Jason Segal are "Violet" and "Tom" , excruciatingly saccharine, superficial lovers unable to exchange vows. Why did the audience have to be crucified on their cross of ineptitude? They mew, fawn, babble endearments (at tooth- ache intensity); she refers to him as "babe" so copiously I earnestly thought she had forgotten his name; which was not necessarily a bad thing. Their embarrassing gushiness, random displays of raunchiness are devoid of a centimeter of chemistry. One egregious sin I can never forgive in my screen characters is boredom; Violet and Tom have cornered the market, championed, monopolized tedium.
This movie could have been legitimate if it had concentrated on viable issues that many couples are confronted with; Violet and Tom are from different countries, cultures, religions, disparate interests. Anyone who has ever loved, been disappointed in romance, conquered the chasms or sunk in the mire of failed relationships will exit knowing even as neophytes that could have written a finer script.
On the positive side it is not as bad as any of the "Sex and the City" movies.
For NOW ....... Peneflix
Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) has fascinated me my entire life; an attraction/repulsion whose tentacles have permanently enslaved my lust for the macabre. His ghoulish, gruesome tales; the "stuff" of nightmares, reflecting his tortured spirit are offset by poetry so magnificently beautiful, spiritual that huge passages have resided comfortably in my memory bank.
John Cusack is credible as the crazed, alcoholic, desperate "Poe" frantically trying to save his beloved "Emily" (the beautiful Alice Eve) from a "copycat" murderer, who baffles, plagues police and Poe with his realistic reenactment of Poe"s most heinous stories ("The Pit and the Pendulum", "The Murders in the Rue Morgue", "The Cask of Amontillado").
Director James McTeigue creates an eerie, murky 1849, Baltimore; horse -drawn carriages, fashionably dressed women whose hems mop the rain- streaked streets; mayhem in male- dominated newsrooms. He over indulges the "nevermore" reprise and plummets to the level of intellectual abuse the ubiquitous "craven raven". But I was "never" bored and always intrigued, sometimes that is sufficient entertainment.
In his limited life Poe culled from the deepest reservoir of his imagination and beleaguered psyche powerful narratives redolent of the Spanish Inquisition, the Black Plague; pungently he capitalized on the human condition; fears, all shun in daylight, but trespass and haunt the darkness, gloom of uncontrolled dreams: buried alive, stalked by evil; Poe gleaned from his pen the blackest caverns of malevolence, giving them life, enhancing his literary legacy.
Whether we accept or deny the veracity of "all that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream" it is delectable cuisine for contemplation.
TWO & 1/2 STARS!!
This fascinating psychological study will leave you pondering long after its conclusion.
Personally, I have never given much thought to the job description of the "Pope"; realize he has over a billion "employees" with benefits; monumental "infallibility", as the replacement for Simon/ Peter (first Pope), it is impossible for him to error in matters of Church dogma. This is stress at the celestial level!
"We Have a Pope" is powerfully original; written, directed by (and costarring ) Nanni Moretti (as the psychiatrist aiding the newly elected Pope through a major crisis); it is more tragic than comedic and commands the viewer to empathize with the "man" who has just been elected Pope, by the College of Cardinals, as the voice of God.
"Melville"( profound performance by Michel Piccoli) is immediately overwhelmed with his appointment; he is terrified, dwarfed by what he feels are his inadequacies: there are huge lacunas in his life, unfulfilled desires, quests never sought or tested; a life lived in the protection of the Church. He escapes his "protectors", mixes with the populace as an ordinary man; his journey, struggle towards enlightenment is genuine, lacking in sentimentality; there is no catastrophic epiphany .
Perfectly structured to combat Melville's angst you are treated to one of the most heart-warming scenes in recent films; a volleyball game with the Cardinals representing countries in a tournament; the psychiatrist is the referee in this joyous, exhilarating example of "comic relief"; for a brief moment these men of God become boys of sport.
Moretti's brilliant use of Anton Chekhov's "The Seagull" as a metaphor for Melville's dissatisfied, frustrated existence lends a richness to this oddly wonderful film.
Regardless of your religious preference, never again will you be blasÃ© or cavalier, while anticipating the white smoke bellowing from the Vatican chimney announcing, "We Have a Pope".