Sunday, May 27, 2012

Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Best Exotic Marigold Hotel -- the rest of its name is for the Beautiful and Old. It's run by an ambitious young man in Jaipur, India whose business sense leaves something to be desired, but whose passion is for the old family building and the elderly people he intends to bring there as resident.

Along the way, poultry and other bird images color the film: chickens scurry around the streets, showing their close relationship to Red Junglefowl, which still nest in India's forests. Peacocks don't appear on screen, but their haunting calls  convey the flavor of life in this hot, crowded Indian city. In one long sequence, an egret flies off, changing directions as it draws in its long neck and soars gracefully over the hotel's courtyard walls.

Each character's story has complications: Ownership of the hotel is shared among Sonny and his two brothers, both more practical and successful, especially in his mother's eyes, than he is. The English retirees make their way to the hotel for various reasons, some deliberately wanting to go there, others finding it as the last resort.

I recognized all the characters from people in my life. They all share our temptations and weaknesses, our finer points and strengths.

It's colorful, showing an India I'd want to visit. Hellish traffic and busy street markets, but friendly people reaching out to obvious foreigners. Maggie Smith plays an elderly woman who comes to India for hip surgery, even though her racism made her recoil from being treated by an Indian doctor in England. Her transformation is a pleasure to watch.

It's a story about hearts opening, and it's never too late. An inspiring message, carried on the crows and calls of our faithful companion birds.

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