YOUR FEATURE PRESENTATION
Though some media pundits scoffed last weekend when THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL opened for business the same weekend as The Avengers (previously reviewed) it turned out to be a savvy move. Where else were the spandex averse or Downton Abbey addicts to go? (Rather perversely, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel denies Abbey addicts additional showdowns between Lady Crawley and the Dowager Countess; Penelope Wilton and Maggie Smith's stories don't intertwine much) In fact, this British retirees in India dramedy should have opened even wider since they had the nation's second best per screen average and could have cracked the top ten with far fewer theaters than the other movies.
But enough about money. Hotel manager Sonny (Slumdog Millionaire's Dev Patel) is a dreamer, not a businessman. His family is losing patience with his dream and time is running out for the hotel. It's running out for the guests, too, as they near the end of their lives. The name of Sonny's establishment is actually “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for Elderly and Beautiful People”. The movie's title lops off those last five words which only proves Sonny's business model's point: he believes that countries don't care about their elderly so he'll outsource old age. Come to India and live out your autumn years!
Would you rent a room from Dev Patel? MORE AFTER THE JUMP...
The film begins by introducing us to each of its characters in mini-chapter form. In quick succession we meet seven Brits with one "issue" a piece beyond the financial problems driving them to a foreign country: Evelyn (Oscar winner Dame Judi Dench) has lost her husband and realizes she's never worked in her life; Douglas (Bill Nighy from Notes on a Scandal) and Jean (Penelope Wilton from Downton Abbey) have an obviously unhappy marriage -- he's chill, she's uptight; Norman the womanizer (the aptly named Ronald Pickup) is quite lonely; Madge (Celia Imrie) is also lonely and wants to marry a rich man; Muriel (Oscar winner Dame Maggie Smith) is racist and feels useless; and Graham (Oscar nominee Tom Wilkinson) retires suddenly. Graham's "issue" the movie withholds for awhile but something is drawing him to India.
So off they go to "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" which is not at all what they were expecting. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, on the other hand, is exactly the kind of movie you expect. It's not that there are no surprises in its juggling of seven to ten separate story threads but that it always moves in the same general direction and pace and tone for each of them. The screenplay gives you two handfuls of neatly packaged problems and it keeps telling you, through Sonny's favorite saying, that it will resolve them all.
"Everything will be all right in the end. So if it's not all right, it's not the end."
In one recurring gag Muriel is terrified to eat anything in India "If I can't pronounce it, I don't want to eat it." but she should rest assured that the only thing this movie is serving is comfort food.
This is not to say that there is no depth or pleasure. The actors are strong enough to elevate the light material and some of the performance notes sting when they should (Maggie to the rescue!) . One of the storylines in particular will interest gay audiences and there are solid warm laughs sprinkled in. Dench, who is the central character despite the ensemble structure, does her best work since Notes on a Scandal... (though she's nowhere near that brilliant). But unfortunately the movie isn't strong enough to sustain it's two hour plus running time as it moves through its problem resolving final act, checking off its story boxes one-by-one.
I went, as I imagine many people will, for some Quality Dame Time and I got it so I shouldn't complain. But my mind was truly wandering. It wasn't just Downton Abbey Season 3 anxiety distracting me in that final third. Hey, that's Notes on a Scandal's Barbara giggling and glowing when paired off with her beloved Sheba's husband Bill Nighy!? That is so wrong. Hey, why didn't they reunite both Slumdog stars for Sonny's B plot romance? As everything became all right in the end, I'd long since checked out of the Marigold Hotel and had created an elaborate television fantasy instead wherein Dames and BFFs Judi & Maggie had their own daily reality show where they gossiped about Hollywood, James Bond, Harry Potter and the West End over tea. Judi uses sweetener but Maggie likes hers bitter.
Wouldn't you DVR the hell out of that?
"The more we learn about Mitt Romney's attitude toward LGBT people, the worse it gets."
Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...
Attorney Ted Olson, who's leading the federal case challenging Proposition 8, joined Chris Matthews and Freedom to Marry's Evan Wolfson on Hardball last night to discuss Obama's same-sex marriage endorsement.
Asks Matthews: how long will it take to get the entire country covered by equality?
Check it out, AFTER THE JUMP...
Doug Wright, Colman Domingo, Paul Rudnick, Rakesh Satyal, Sarah Moon, Amy Bloom , James Lecesne, David Levithan, Lucy Thurber, Linda Villarosa, Adam Haslett, Arthur Levine, Bill Clegg, Brian Selznick, Gregory Maguire, Michael Cunningham are among 64 LGBT authors who write letters to their younger selves in a new book called The Letter Q.
Here's a preview of their words, straight from the authors' mouths.
Watch, AFTER THE JUMP...
WHAT IS IT? It's a deepstar enigmatica caught on a submersible camera.
GAY MARRIAGE: Tea Party reporter Susie Sampson polls the public.
PLASTIC BAG: A Katy Perry cover.
PRISCILLA: A Gumby takes Manhattan.
For recent Guides to the Tube, click HERE.
Senior Romney aide Eric Fehrnstrom outed a transgender woman, ending her political career: "I can remember his glee when he found the birth certificate."
Third man comes forward, claims John Travolta offered him money for sex on a Royal Caribbean cruise.
The White House blog looks at reactions to Obama's same-sex marriage endorsement. More here.
Senate committee agrees to hold hearings on ENDA: "In a statement Thursday, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee, announced he intends to hold a hearing on ENDA on June 12. 'Every American deserves an equal opportunity to earn a good living, judged by their talent, ability and qualifications free from discrimination,' Harkin said. 'Workplace discrimination based on an employee’s sexual orientation or gender identity is reprehensible and has no place in our nation.'"
Adele is set to do an NBC Special with Matt Lauer next month.
Amy Winehouse and Pete Doherty's blood-smeared artworks are for sale.
Democrats faced with questions about gay marriage positions: "Senators Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana are among Democrats facing questions about their stand on the issue and whether they are swayed by the president's support, which he announced May 9. McCaskill, Manchin and Tester are seeking re-election this year in Republican-leaning states. None back gay marriage."
Buzzfeed: A Mitt Romney gay rights timeline.
Adam Lambert streaming his new album Trespassing.
John Kerry, 16 Senators urge White House to delay enforcement of restrictions on immigrants who risk deportation because of their same-sex marriages: "In a letter sent to Attorney General Eric Holder and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, the senators said they were troubled that some immigration field offices 'are apparently following a blanket policy to deny green card applications for all gay spouses.'"
Taylor Kitsch buzzed.
Gay rights supporters draw up Wyoming civil union bill: "Perhaps the big question now for civil unions in Wyoming is which of these philosophies will govern lawmakers’ votes: a determination to prevent the undermining of marriage, one of society’s key institutions, or an aversion to having government interfere in people’s lives."
We've lost another one.
U.S. Bishops investigate Girl Scouts.
Ann Coulter on Mitt's bullying, Obama's same-sex marriage endorsement: “I haven’t read The Washington Post article, but I think it would be discriminatory if Mitt Romney did not play pranks on gays, just the way he plays them on non-gays. And I don’t know, back then, how many people were all that aware of it? But Mitt Romney is known for being a prankster. I don’t think this issue is going to help Obama much. It is just that it is not going to hurt him as much as it would hurt a non-half-black Democrat. I think this whole thing is a lot like — it’s such a sign of desperation.”