The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

The old & the beautiful

Pic Source: Wikipedia

There should be a separate genre of films called ‘heartwarming’, where we can put films like ‘We Bought a Zoo’, ‘50/50’ and ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’. These films do not brush aside life’s problems but treat them in a sensitive and uplifting manner… the stories are always simple, yet touch your heart and I am not at all embarrassed to say that they make me cry. These are not depressing films and the tears are more often related to joy and the eventual triumph of the human spirit. John Madden’s The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is one such film that is sweet, simple, heartwarming and entertaining.

The film follows seven British retirees who decide to spend their autumn years in exotic and affordable India. From a recently widowed housewife to a racist retired housekeeper; a former high court judge to a bitter couple and two old-birds in search of love and one-night stands; there are plenty of interesting characters in the film. After an eventful journey, they all land up at The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel in Jaipur, a crumbling property that is nothing like the photo-shopped images they saw online. The dilapidated hotel is run by an ambitious yet scatterbrained manager cum owner, Sonny (Dev Patel) who has this interesting business plan of outsourcing retirement.

Written by Ol Parker, the film has a stellar cast comprising of some of the finest British actors including Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith, Penelope Wilton, Celia Imrie and Ronald Pickup. Needless to say, they all are fabulous and each one has a touching story. However, Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson and Maggie Smith steal the show. Dev Patel has the required energy but his accent distracts from his ‘Indian’ character. Tena Desae plays Sonny’s love interest, Sunaina, a confident girl who works in a call centre and Lillete Dubey plays his mother.

The film exaggerates and exploits all clichés about India but then you must remember that the film is from the point of view of British retirees. Riot of colours, beggars, rickety bus rides, Indians using incorrect English (and interestingly street urchins talking in British accent)… all this and more, the film packs a lot of real and imaginary India. Some of it may irritate you but if you look past all this, it is an interestingly presented film. Cinematography by Ben Davis is beautiful and he uses the typical exotic India imagery to the fullest. Music by Thomas Newman is also like those documentaries on India we get to see on Nat Geo and Discovery; but again it does create the desired effect.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a simple film with plenty of emotions and Rajasthan tourism brochure as the background. Watch it if you enjoy crying at the movies.

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My Week With Marilyn

She’s Marilyn… She’s Michelle

My Week With Marilyn; Source: Wikipedia

Marilyn Monroe lives through her image… the iconic photographs, the stories around her enigmatic life and death, and of course, her films that released over half a century ago. She is more of a cinematic icon than a person in the minds of the viewers today… However, Simon Curtis’ (director) film ‘My Week with Marilyn’ brings Marilyn the star, Marilyn the manipulator, Marilyn the victim and Marilyn the insecure girl back to life again.  The real credit goes to the actress, who it seems was born to play this role – Michelle Williams.

The film is based on British writer and documentary filmmaker, Colin Clark’s account of his time spent with Marilyn on and off the sets of another film, The Prince and the Showgirl (1957) for which she shot in London with actor/filmmaker, Laurence Olivier. Clark worked with Olivier as the third assistant director and forged an unlikely friendship with the world’s biggest star, albeit for a week. His two books, ‘The Prince, The Showgirl and Me’ and ‘My Week with Marilyn’ were adapted beautifully for screen by Adrian Hodges.

In the new film, Laurence Olivier (played by Kenneth Branagh) admires Marilyn’s screen persona and tells his young colleague, Colin (Eddie Redmayne) that he finds himself dull when she’s on-screen with him. That statement holds true of Michelle Williams’ performance in My Week with Marilyn. When she is on screen, you see nobody else and she lives Marilyn Monroe; she flirts, she winks, she laughs and says wicked things… she also appears nervous, vulnerable and someone you’d like to help, despite knowing that she can’t be helped. That’s the situation, Colin finds himself in as he thinks he can protect Marilyn, but from whom, herself?

The film also stars Judi Dench as Sybil Thorndike; Julia Ormond as Vivien Leigh; Emma Watson as Lucy, a wardrobe assistant; Zoë Wanamaker as Paula Strasberg, Marilyn’s acting coach; Dominic Cooper as Milton Greene, her business partner, amongst others. A stellar cast like this and you only remember Michelle after the film ends! Of course, the role she plays ensured she gets the most attention, but it was a big responsibility and the final outcome rested on her performance.

Williams has given some fine performances earlier also that earned her Oscar nominations (Supporting Actress for Brokeback Mountain and Leading Actress for Blue Valentine); but this time she shone like never before earning her third Academy Award nomination (Best Actress). Do watch My Week with Marilyn for her. It is a fine film with an interesting story, good cinematography, art direction, great supporting cast, etc, etc. But at the end it is Michelle as Marilyn who is the soul of the film.

– Shrey Khetarpal