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MARCH/APRIL 2012

Movie Review
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Blooms With First-Rate Actors
By  Jan Aaron

Seniors rarely play lead roles in movies today; they’re sidekicks who are lonely, grumpy, or amazing fonts of wisdom. Director John Madden’s “The Most Exotic Marigold Hotel,” (opens May 4), aimed at this forgotten demographic, is a delightful change of pace.  The movie based on the novel “These Foolish Things”, features seven British retirees – made up of the cream of British acting talent – who grapple with growing older by going to Jaipur India to spend their waning days where their meager retirement funds will stretch further.

There’s Evelyn (Judi Dench), forced to sell her London home, to pay off her husband’s debts; High Court Judge  Graham (Tom Wilkinson) retiring after a long, productive career;  quietly courtly Douglas,( Bill Nighy), his shrewish, humorless wife, Jean (Penelope Wilton), who sunk their retirement into their daughters disastrous Internet venture; Muriel (Maggie Smith), a former maid, seeking an inexpensive hip replacement operation;  Madge (Celia Imrie), a  cougar on the prowl, and lustful old Norman (Ronald Pickup), who must face the truth about his age.

They’re welcomed by Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel), a disorganized young manager, who inherited this once grand hotel from his uncle, and whose plans of restoring it to its brochure-like glory have apparently failed. His mother (Lillette Dubey) wants him to close the place, accept an arranged marriage and move with her to Delhi, scorning his modern girlfriend (Tena Desae).

The film is propelled by Evelyn’s blog entries, heard in voiceover throughout the film. Every performer turns in a sterling performance. The most moving sequence follows Graham, the sole traveler, with a past in India, having spent his privileged childhood here. A closeted gay man, he left behind the love of his youth and seeks and succeeds in making peace with past mistakes. Smith’s Muriel, a working class racist’s turnaround and discovery of self-worth is another of the movie’s highlights.

Cinematographer Ben Davis captures Jaipur in Rajasthan as both serene and bustling to fit the script. And the spicy score by Thomas Newman is just right for the environment.

At deadline, I saw “Girl In Progress” a touching and funny coming of age yarn, led by a fine assembly of Latino actors – Eva Mendes, Cierra Ramirez, and Raini Rodriquez. Mom juggles work, bills and an affair as her daughter plots a shortcut to adulthood inspired by stories she’s reading for school. Opens May 11, in time for a Mother’s Day mother/daughter treat or date later. #

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