Monday, May 7, 2012

Catnip for seniors: John Madden's THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL arrives

Sure to be a huge winner at the box-office of theaters smart enough to court the elderly, John Madden's latest directorial offering has none of the truly clever caché of Shakespeare in Love (there's no Tom Stoppard-level scribe involved here), but THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL, adapted by Ol Parker from the novel by Deborah Moggach, is certainly good enough entertain-ment to please most relatively discerning seniors. Just to find an A-level movie about and cast with  the over-6o set is enticing.

Not being on the list for most mainstream movies, I wasn't invited to a press screening of this one, but a senior friend of ours wanted so much to see it, we accompanied her to a weekend showing -- where the long line trailing out of the theater lobby had almost no one under 60 in it. If Fox Searchlight markets this one well enough, we can expect a hit and maybe a number of other decent films with and for seniors in the offing.

The trailer has managed to ruin some of the movie's best laughs, but don't worry, there are others. There are also good stories that come out of the half-dozen lives shown here: all elderly folk who have decided -- for reasons involving money and security -- to leave England behind to go live their twilight years in India.

The characters and the cast who portray them prove a good mix of types and "stars." Every one of them -- from Maggie Smith (two photos up) and Judi Dench (above, center) to Bill Nighy (three photos up), Tom Wilkinson (center, two photos below), Celia Imrie (seated above, center right, Penelope Wilton (below, in the penultimate photo) and Ronald Pickup (seated above, right) -- does crisp, thoughtful, concise work, making the most of those moments that add up to as full a character as this kind of movie can create.

The Indians are represented by Slumdog Millionaire's Dev Patel (above, on motorcycle), with his girlfriend (played by Tena Desai) seated behind him. He's the young man who's trying to make a "go" of the dilapidated hotel in which our ensemble is staying. Because this is, above all, a feel-good movie, that "go" is made, of course -- as is everything necessary for everyone on view. Even death, when it comes, is somehow wonderful, graceful, easy and timely. Hey, we seniors need to know that all will be well.

Patel's character quotes a saying which is then repeated at movie's end to the effect that everything will turn out all right. And if it isn't all right, this simply means that it isn't yet finished. Ah, if only. Anyone who knows history -- choose any country -- knows that, over time, thousands, millions of people have led awful lives, and then they've died. The movie also cheats by making difficult things look easy. Just when did Maggie Smith's character's hip replacement happen? And where was even a touch of the post-op therapy she'd be needing? Ah, well: It's feel-good. So feel good, for Christ sake!

I know it may sound like I am down on this movie. But I thoroughly enjoyed it as it was being digitally delivered. It's a fun ride, driven by consummate actors, and written and directed (Mr. Madden is pictured below) with a good degree of care and skill. So go, enjoy, revel even. (It will be recommended by nearly every senior you know, so you might as well give in early and see it.)

Afterwards, in the quiet of your own thinking, a little doubt may creep in, and you'll be aware that, unless you are among the one percent, life in the twilight years will not be this easy (even, or maybe especially, in India). Nor will death. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel has opened all over the place,  in a number of our major cities and probably at several theaters in each -- with more theaters and cities to come as the weeks go by.

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