How many of us as little kids fantasized about whom we would share our life with when we grew up? I am sure there were a multitude looking for their Prince Charming, Princess Jasmine, Superman or even their Wonder Woman. I have a cousin who used to insist she was adopted and that she would return to her royal birthright when she found her prince. There are some people who believe they can rise in status by marrying the right individual. But what if you belonged to a culture where there was a strong divide between the classes? This film’s story was an updated version of Thomas Hardy’s novel, Tess and the d’Urbervilles, set in India. Trishna, played by Freida Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire, Immortals) came from a poor rural family. As the movie started I was surprised with the opening scenes showing a group of guys partying, wondering where the writers were taking this tale. One of the friends named Jay, played by Riz Ahmed (Four Lions, The Road to Guantanamo), happened to notice Trishna. From this chance meeting began a slow transition into the beginnings of a love relationship. Jay, the son of a wealthy Indian businessman, was the perfect gentleman at first; however, as the movie progressed the budding romance between the two took on a sinister flavor. Freida was lovely in this role as her rural upbringing clashed with Jay’s upper class sensibilities. I was lost though on Jay’s character development, never fully understood his motives. The story broke apart halfway through for me and I lost my interest in the unfolding events. It was a good idea bringing the story into a modern setting, in an exotic locale; but it needed more drama and explanation to make it a good movie. There were a couple of scenes that showed blood.
2 1/2 stars
How does one go forward if they do not see where they came from? There is nothing wrong with looking to the past to find answers in the present. Based on the best-selling novel, this wonderful movie could easily have been about any group or individual; besides the family in this beautiful story about one’s name and heritage. In my family we are named after a deceased relative, honoring their memory. As a child I did not appreciate this since I was the only one who had my name until I was in high school. It wasn’t until I became an adult (or close to one) that I learned to love and respect my name. Kal Penn (Harold & Kumar franchise, Epic Movie) as Gogol/Nikhil went through such a transformation as the son of immigrant parents Ashima and Ashoke, played by Tabu (Shock, Chandni Bar) and Irrfan (Slumdog Millionaire, The Darjeeling Limited). The biggest surprise for me was Kal’s admirable acting. Seriously, I had no idea he could handle this role and add such believability to it. Tabu’s and Irrfan’s acting was sublime as the transplanted Indians navigating their way between the modern world they lived in with the traditions and customs of their culture. A majestic movie about love, family and the honor given to one’s name.
3 1/3 stars — DVD
Being met by a plethora of colors and a sea of people, a group of British retirees had landed in Jaipur, India to begin the next chapter of their lives at the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Well, the brochure they received stated it was the “Best.” However, the hotel looked like it was way past its bloom. As for me, the movie felt like it was cut off before fully blossoming, with characters not fully developed, to make for a better story. There were some parts of the film that were quite enjoyable. These usually involved stellar acting from Judi Dench (J. Edgar, Ladies in Lavender) as the widowed Evelyn Greenslade, Bill Nighy (Wrath of the Titans, Pirate Radio) as retired civil servant Douglas Ainslie, Maggie Smith (Harry Potter franchise, Ladies in Lavender) as the wheelchair bound Muriel Donnelly and Tom Wilkinson (Michael Clayton, The Debt) as former judge Graham Dashwood. These four characters were more believable to me as we saw their characters grow throughout the movie. I have always been fascinated seeing other cultures and appreciated the way the director used the city and its citizens to propel the story forward. However, there were other parts of the movie I found slow and not totally believable. I have to say, it was a pleasure sitting in the company of all adult viewers–no one was texting or talking on their cell phones during the movie.
2 2/3 stars