Darpan Box office: Hollywood
Attack Of The Mature British Thespians
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel walks the fine line between respectful and patronizing
- - Somebody will marvel at the colours and sounds of the city, just as someone else complains about the accommodations.
- - Social issues like arranged marriages, untouchables and poverty will be discussed, however fleetingly and without providing any insight.
- - A Bollywood music number will be performed. The protagonist is bound to join the fun and make a fool of him/herself (this is also applicable to cricket).
- - Cows will stop traffic.
The British dramedy The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the Elderly and Beautiful falls for every single one of these chestnuts. More impressively, it remains charming despite an absolute lack of originality, thanks to a cast of veteran English pros and the director of Shakespeare in Love, John Madden.
Based on a real-life trend, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel follows a group of British retirees that has chosen to spend their golden years in India, enthused by the cost of life and more benevolent weather down south. This particular crowd has picked a charming spa in Jaipur that looks like a palace. Or so it seems on the website.
Once in Jaipur, the retirees realize some serious photoshopping has occurred. Their destination has just a passing resemblance to the idyllic image seen online. Most rooms lack the most basic amenities, like doors. The only reason they don’t leave on the spot is Sonny (Dev Patel, Slumdog Millionaire), the winning – if clueless – manager, who convinces them to give the place a shot.
Sure enough, the Marigold Hotel’s shortcomings soon become background noise to the real issues that trouble the visitors. A bigoted former maid (Maggie Smith) can’t afford a hip replacement in England and is terrified of having the procedure in India. A mature couple (Bill Nighy and Penelope Whilton) realizes their basic incompatibilities as they adjust to their new life. A widow (a wonderful Judi Dench) takes her first steps towards self-reliance as a newly minted coach for telemarketers. In the most straightforwardly comedic subplot, two spinsters look for love outside their age and social status bracket.
The only storyline that escapes standard fare focuses on a retired judge (Tom Wilkinson), who spent his adolescence in Jaipur and had a fling with a local teenager. When discovered, the British kid was shipped back to the motherland and spent the following four decades wondering about the fate of his first love.
Considering the ho-hum script, it’s amazing what the experienced cast achieves. Maggie Smith pulls the biggest feat of all by turning a caricature (the chauvinistic old-timer) into a fully fleshed character. The reliable Bill Nighy is touching as the husband desperately trying to find a common ground with his snobbish wife and inadvertently developing feelings for someone else.
The film looks like a million dollars (several, in fact) and showcases the little seen – in the Western world anyway – province of Rajasthan. At the very least, cinematographer Ben Davis (Wrath of the Titans) makes an effort to show a different face of India. If only the screenwriters had tried as hard.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel reminds often of better ensemble movies like Love, Actually and Four Weddings and a Funeral, but has a bitter undercurrent that makes it less palatable. The film’s portrait of mature love is simultaneously sweet and sad. Through comedy, some hard truths are revealed: everything will be alright in the end. If not, it’s not the end.
It’s better advice than anything in Eat, Pray, Love.
HARD TO ASSEMBLE
The film incarnation of The Avengers is entertaining, but hardly super
In this post-Dark Knight world, superhero movies must be memorably entertaining (X-Men: First Class) or tackle serious issues (who watches the Watchmen?). The bar is so high that middle-of-the-road flicks like Green Lantern are bound to fail, regardless of being better than pre-Batman duds like Fantastic Four.
In the case of Marvel’s The Avengers, expectations couldn’t be higher. Starring three franchise leads (Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth), The Avengers had to deal with a number of potential pitfalls, including chemistry issues, a bloated script or turning the whole enterprise into an unsanctioned sequel to Iron Man (now, with friends!)
I’m happy to report The Avengers delivers in the amusement department, even though it doesn’t break new ground or have any fresh insight on the iconic super-group.
The film uses the epilogues of Thor, Iron Man and The Incredible Hulk as a starting point: humanity is threatened by exiled divinity Loki (Tom Hiddleston), who has agreed to create an inter-dimensional portal for the megalomaniac Chitauri in exchange for ruling our planet. Loki’s plan places him squarely in S.H.I.E.L.D.’s crosshairs. Aware of the demigod’s uncontestable powers, Nick Fury calls Thor, the Hulk, Captain America and Iron Man for assistance. Problem is, some of these heroes are not fond of taking orders, let alone play well with others.
Clocking 142 minutes, The Avengers dedicates more than half of this to the assembling of the team. While Bruce Banner and Tony Stark become instant friends, Stark and Captain America are all too eager to exchange blows (shades of the Civil War series). Eventually, a devastating attack by Loki’s forces pushes the notion of greater good forward, but the alliance remains just a blow away from collapsing.
Director and screenwriter Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) does a bang up job giving every hero a moment in the spotlight, although the movie could have used less Black Widow. The unexpected MVP is the Hulk. It still looks fake, but as a comic relief is a wonder.
There is something missing from The Avengers: the human factor Marvel heroes like Spider-Man and the X-Men bring to the table, a vulnerability that makes them more relatable. It’s hard to be concerned for a playboy, a demigod and a massive brute with limited vocabulary fighting some other divinity. It’s bound to be entertaining, but could never be transcendent. Next time, include the little guy in the red and blue suit.
By Jorge Ignacio Castillo