Gentle Readers . . . and Maxwell,
We offer two movies for your consideration today. Both are available on DVD, were released in 2011, and are quite good.
The first is The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
Of course, the place turns out to be a dump.
But almost everyone pitches in to make living conditions better, and before you know it, the hotel improves, while some lives improve at the same time.
This movie is simply charming. The story is lovely, except that one aspect of the conclusion seems quite contrived out of desperation for a happy ending that doesn't cast blame or guilt on anyone.
Marigold boasts a stellar cast. My favorite characters are Muriel Donnelly (Maggie Smith) and Evelyn Greenslade (Judi Dench).
Miss Donnelly arrives in India in a very unhappy position -- she needs surgery, she's prejudiced against Indians, and she's going to have her surgery in an Indian hospital. It's a prescription for misery. But Muriel Donnelly's life changes, and it begins with her acknowledgement of a servant who is an "untouchable."
And then we have Evelyn, who depended on her husband for everything, but he's left her by dying. She hardly knows what to do, but she becomes beautifully independent during the course of the film. Judi Dench brings both gravitas and an adorably impish grin to every role she plays.
I believe a few of you mentioned seeing this movie when it first arrived in theaters, and you liked it. You really liked it. And now The Most Exotic Marigold Hotel has The Janie Junebug Seal of Approval.
Our second offering is Water For Elephants.
Jacob (Robert Pattinson), a young veterinary student during The Great Depressions (no, not this one, the last one), is about to graduate from Cornell when tragedy strikes. He abandons the opportunity to earn his degree, loses his home, and suddenly decides to ride the rails. To his surprise, Jacob jumps on what turns out to be a circus train. At first, he shovels animal manure, but when August, the owner of the circus, learns that Jacob is a veterinarian who went to Cornell, August welcomes Jacob as the show's vet and as a social equal to August and his beautiful wife, Marlena (Reese Witherspoon).
Christoph Waltz, who won a Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for playing a Nazi in Inglorious Basterds, proves himself capable again at portraying evil; however, this performance is more multi-faceted than his Nazi in Basterds. August is so unpleasant, though, that I gasped more than once in shock and dismay at his cruelty. Although I think this movie is very good, you must be aware that it contains some violence. It is not for children.
Marlena is the victim of some of August's dastardly deeds. She performs in the circus, first as a trick rider on a horse, and then as the rider of Rosie the elephant, who wows the crowds. Reese Witherspoon is excellent in this role, and I don't think I've ever seen her look more lovely. I think she has a maturity now that adds to her talent and beauty.
If the thought of violence frightens you away from this movie, I understand, but be aware a happy ending awaits you.
Water For Elephants also earns The Janie Junebug Seal of Approval.
I wish you a most pleasant weekend.
Infinities of love,