CHICAGO – The issue of gender identity, especially for those who are born with a vagueness as to what to call themselves between/beyond boy and girl, has come front and center in the U.S., both with the legalization of gay marriage and the callous repudiation of identity by trying to pass laws dismissing it (the North Carolina “bathroom” laws). The performance companies of The Living Canvas and Nothing Without a Company is currently staging “[Trans]formation,” which presents gender identity art by six performers, who perform most of the play in the nude.
Film Review: Judi Dench Checks Into ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’
CHICAGO – Seven desperate souls are taking risks to save some part of their world, which describes both “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” and “The Avengers.” Which will win the box office war? The “heroes” of the Marigold residence include Judi Dench, Tom Wilkerson, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith and Dev Patel.
The slight story relies on often seen clichés in a golden-ager movie mode – man crazy and lonely widows, a horny old man, a used up marriage, a redeemed curmudgeon – but luckily these are filtered through top drawers actors who heighten the stereotypes into something more. This is a film that tries too hard with its message and premise, and is a bit overlong, but has its heart in the right place. It ends up being time well spent with the characters themselves, because of the precise performances in their various journeys.
Seven persons in retirement are at a crossroads, and the signs point in the same direction – a dull remainder of life in cold Britain. Evelyn (Judi Dench) has just lost her husband, Graham (Tom Wilkerson) is a retiring magistrate, Norman (Ronald Pickup) is a randy old goat, Madge (Celia Imrie) is searching for another husband, Muriel (Maggie Smith) is a candidate for a hip replacement and a married couple (Bill Nighy as Douglas and Penelope Wilton as Jean) are finding their golden years are turning to rust. They are decide to “outsource” their retirements, signing up to live at the Marigold Hotel in Udalpur, India.
The hotel turns out to be a dump, a last ditch effort by Sonny (Dev Patel of “Slumdog Millionaire”) to turn his fortunes around. The retirees all have their reasons for being there, and set out to understand what those reasons will give them in their new locale. It works out, for example, that Evelyn gets employed at the same call center as Sonny’s girlfriend Sunaina (Teria Desae), and Graham starts searching for his past, having lived in the teeming city in his youth. All of the “golden souls” will be changed by their stay at the Marigold, whether they want to or not.
Photo credit: Ishika Mohan for Fox Searchlight Pictures