The Thinking 

A Movie Brief

May 27, 2012


DIANA writes:

Would that I had read James Bowman’s perceptive review of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. I would have saved myself and a friend $6 a piece, and spent the morning in the beauties of nature rather than the tedium of a witless British “comedy.”

Mr. Bowman nails the movie’s disrespect towards both its British and Indian characters. I will write more to you about this film when my temper has cooled. For now, I feel cheated. A waste of a stellar cast.

                                            — Comments —-

Susan Ann-White writes from Northern Ireland:

Why would that lady go to see a movie made by and starring the liberal crowd? Personally speaking, we do not go to the cinema at all.

Laura writes:

I also stopped going to the movies a long time ago. Leaving aside the worldview expressed by Hollywood, they are poorly written and conceived. They always bear the mark of a committee.

June 3

Diana writes:

“Why would that lady go to see a movie made by and starring the liberal crowd? Personally speaking, we do not go to the cinema at all.”

I have cut down my movie-going considerably in the last many years. And in the last 10, my movie-going is restricted to a very few films. But I do not want to stop going entirely, and occasionally I have been pleasantly surprised – even by Hollywood fare – as I was with Young Adult. While that film didn’t have the guts to hit the ball out of the park, it contained a few wise perceptions about the dilemmas of youth today,  how some of them have escaped them into normalcy – and how some are hanging on the horns, pierced and starving for sustenance.

I had read that the director of Best Marigold Hotel, was the same fellow who directed Shakespeare in Love, which I found diverting. He was not Richard Curtis, whose movies I loathe. But Mr. Bowman was correct in saying that this was a Richard Curtis movie without Richard Curtis. Indeed, Mr. Curtis’s movies appear to be assembled by committee. There is always the same cast of characters. There is always a bumbling, diffident Englishman, who turns out to be surreptitiously effective at getting a girl into bed. There is always a brash, sexually voracious American female (as if Britain doesn’t have its share of that unappetizing species of female). And, there is always the impossibly wise gay male friend, who always manages to live a life more meaningful and stable than the hapless heteros whose shenanigans are mercilessly lampooned.

In Best Marigold, the American virago was missing and the wise homosexual was the center of the film. This gay male character had pined for the love of an Indian boy whom he had had a youthful affair with many years previous to the action of the film. This love is represented as the only true and enduring love in the film. The two heterosexual marriages are represented as being either shams or stunting to the wife. In the course of the film, the English homosexual manages to locate his former lover, who is married according to the Indian custom, by arrangement. The Indian wife knows about the affair, and seems not a bit put out by it. When they see each other after 30 years of “separation,” the two old lovers fall into one another’s arms in a tender embrace. The Indian wife looks at this with stoic acceptance. I found this hard to believe.

Other than that, the movie focused on the aging British characters attempts to, excuse me, get laid. Other than the youthful homosexual affair, love didn’t exist in this world, only lust. There were two young Indians – stereotyped, set piece characters, who are having premarital sex, and who will marry despite the objections of their parents. I cannot express in words how insulting the film was to both Indians, and to the British. All the characters were stereotypes. The most incomprehensible thing to me is that although the film was intended to be an indictment of Western attitudes towards the discarded elderly (where they have a point), the makers of the film didn’t see that Indian attitudes towards the primacy of the family, which is centrally dependent on the arranged marriage and subsuming of individual lust to the dictates of family formation, is responsible for the fact that in India, the elderly are not discarded. The pros and cons of arranged marriage were deftly addressed by Monsoon Wedding, in which two couples are juxtaposed: wealthy arranged marriage, and two poor people who meet by accident and find love (not lust, but love).  If I were rejecting all movie-going, I’d have missed that gem. I recommend Monsoon Wedding highly.

I agree that most movies nowadays are worthless, but there are a few that are worth seeing. One has to be a very cagey customer nowadays. I wasn’t prepared for how offended I would be by Best Marigold Hotel – forewarned is forearmed!

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