Dear friends and readers,
It’s been almost two years since Part One. Izzy and I went again because we had been moved, exhilarated and for a time intensely cheered by the 1st Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Unexpectedly it almost pulled it off: again Ol Parker gave to powerful actors some speeches that resonate deeply with anyone thinks he or she has experienced irretrievable loss and gets a second chance, with longing for companionship, self-doubt; since I’ve watched Richard Curtis’s Love Actually twice since (two Christmases where I sorely needed some wish fulfillment), this time I saw the parallel with this Christmas film: an overall trajectory of hope, optimism, good things occurring, lucky strokes, within which each set of characters experience real anguish, and we see how much failure and loss and compromise in each case there is. Yet in each case some love, companionship and at the moment of the ending joy is known and celebrated. Love Actually is better because the anguish arises more naturally, out of family situations, long-known people — as it did in the 1st Hotel movie, but then this is supposed to occur abroad among old or aging people whose lives at home and families have fallen apart and are just about making it in this hotel now filled with retired, aging, and about to die (the bleak joke is) people.
Last time Judi Dench as Mrs Greenslade (Evelyn) was narrator, now it falls to Maggie Smith as Mrs Donnelly (Muriel). It’s not so much voice-over as she soliloquizing using voice-over in front of us. Not easy to do, and again I was powerfully reminded of her performance as Susan in Bed among Lentils (linked in below). Maybe it was the working class accent, or her real desperation and gratitude to have found a substitute son, family, place she belongs in and functions once again to save, but I found her character so much superior to that of the Duchess she has been enacting lo these five years. No comparison. The director, John Madden filmed her in continual close-ups, and she has not used any Botox or cosmetic surgery so all the deeply felt inward life of her comes out on her wore face and large blue eyes. The closest to true devastation this movie comes is when Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel) rushes back from the wedding reception because he misses Mrs Donnelly and worries about her, and for a moment thinks her dead. I feared I’d go into hysterics. No, just resting. It’s a trick, a manipulation of the audience’s emotions, and this is done more obviously and with more strain than the first time round.
I should qualify if you hated the kind of thing the first movie represents, or hated it, you will hate this yet more. Little irritants: preaching against “self-pity,” and how we all can make it, and in the movie several of our original group have improbably become successful entrepreneurs. All I can say is we overlooked that and entered into what was not cant. The young Untouchable girl who began the first movie is brought back at this movie’s end for Muriel to thank, and I did break up into crying when Maggie as Muriel talked of how there is no ending, and death is somehow part of a continuation. Not so. For individuals there is an ending.
Cut to wild Indian dancing at the close of Sapoor and wedding reception, a combination of traditional Bollywood dances with modern Indian movie dances. They dance on behalf of life in the midst of aging, loneliness and coming death.
Not everyone of the original band is there,
so there are two newcomers: Richard Gere posing as a writer, and thought by Sapoor to be the inspector sent by the American corporation to whom he and Muriel have applied for a loan to renovate the hotel and open a second to accommodate more guests, needed to provide enough profit. Tamsin Grieg as Miss Lavinia Beach (pseudonym), a real hard inspector for a rival chain whom Sapoor misguidedly pointedly neglects.
I last saw Grieg as Miss Bates in the 2009 Emma by Sandy Welch and Miss Hardiment in the 2010 Tamara Drewe from Posy Simmonds; I knew I had seen her or at least heard her distinctive voice, before but would not have placed her as the same actress who did either of those two very different parts until I saw her name in the credits.
20th Century Fox and two Indian production companies produce the most alluring of colors, it’s filmed on location. the cinematographer, Ben Smithard, again knows what he is doing: there was a moment when the camera looks at Judi Dench as the eyes of the loving Douglas (Bill Nighy) and she just looked transcendantly beautiful, even if she is in her 70s.
As in Love Actually and the previous Hotel, Nighy delivers the memorable epitomizing moments. It’s no use to go over the plot-lines this time; they don’t make much sense; they carry on from the previous (so I wished I could remember the previous better), giving some momentary closure to a few when the first movie gave no closure, left the people there still single, with their families back home fallen apart or gone. Now they have formed more definite heterosexual couples having sex (this time there is no gay man), even Sonny Kapoor’s mother must be included, dragged in, to her credit, most reluctantly, to (as Touchstone in As You Like It would say), the mandatory country copulatives — all but Muriel. The character is to my mind given more respect even if the pragmatic realist would say, well of course, she’s too old, who would love her but as a grandmother. I’m tempted to say go see to watch and listen to Maggie make a movie once again, or better yet click your way through Alan Bennet’s Bed Among Lentils.
Keep clicking to see the whole
Izzy and I went at the last minute; we bought take-out Chinese food to bring home, set up our supper in front of the TV and watched World’s Ice-Skating on NBC.