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Animadversion: Oh, the drama!

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a feel-good film with an ensemble cast that’s left stranded in India for the majority of the film.

Adapted from the book These Foolish Things by Deborah Moggach, Marigold sells the idea to offload retirees with dwindling bank balances to India.

The film starts with a roll call intro of the people who will be tenants at The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel—which according to the manager played by the young Dev Patel, is just right “for the elderly and beautiful”—bad grammar and buttering aside, his sentiments are at the right place.

One of the tenants is Evelyn Greenslade (Dame Judi Dench), a recent widow now penniless. Also there is a retired high court judge Graham Dashwood (Tom Wilkinson) retuning to India to find a past love. An old couple, Douglas and Jean Ainslie (Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilton) are there without much money (they invested their saving in their daughter’s business). Then there’s the xenophobic of the lot—Muriel Donnelly (Maggie Smith)—sent to India for hip-replacement surgery that has a six-month waiting list in England. And finally, the two light-hearted singles of the group individually looking for love: Madge Hardcastle (Celia Imrie) and Norman Cousins (Ronald Pickup). The first one is aiming for a permanent relationship while the latter is a one-night stand guy—even at his rickety age.

They get on the same flight to Udaipur, Rajasthan. After suffering the pain of flight cancellation, a bus and rickshaw ride later they arrive at the hotel. It is a far cry from the luxurious old palace advertised in its brochure. The only tenants here are the pigeons and the moss, which has grown a permanent residence on the walls.

Marigold is run by an animated and optimistic Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel) who wants to return the hotel to its glory days when his father ran it. He has a resisting mother with a typical reason to marry him off to a girl of her choice. Like a typical Indian youth of today (and a typical subplot), he has an open-minded girlfriend Sunaina (Tena Desae) who’s far from his mother’s idea of a typical Indian bahu.

Thankfully, Marigold is not preachy or critical of India, which most films from foreign filmmakers are. Instead it focuses on Brits’ take on India and their very human reactions to a different culture. India is just an aptly-placed prop in the backdrop of a persuasive story smartly directed by John Madden (Shakespeare in Love, Proof).

Written by Ol Parker, the film loses its steam by the half mark. Released by Fox Searchlight and produced by Blueprint Pictures, Participant Media, ImageNation Abu Dhabi, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is rated PG-13. It is running in cinemas across Pakistan.

Together forever

Coming out of The Avengers, Safe or Dark Shadows? Then The Lucky One, starring Zack Efron with his bright baby-blue eyes and a seven-day stubble, might seem like a long film. It certainly takes its time getting there and unlike the aforementioned films, there aren’t any wisecracking smart alecks.

There is one explosion early in the movie. But it is one of those ineluctable MacGuffins that sometimes jumpstart romantic dramas—the kind that leads to fated happily-ever-afters in novels that are far removed from reality.

Efron is Logan Thibault, a quiet young Marine with bulging biceps and an off-camera look that means he’s still burdened by war.

When the film opens on his third Iraq trip, he sees a snapshot photo glistening in the debris. He picks it up, and narrowly misses out on an explosion. The picture stays with him. After the war, he pinpoints the locale in the background—it is in sunlit, tree-covered Louisiana, and he walks all the way there from Colorado.

The woman in the pic is Beth (Taylor Schilling), a single mother with an iniquitous local Sheriff (Jay R. Ferguson) as an ex. She owns a kennel and trains dogs with her mother (Blythe Danner). Logan, unable to explain why he’s there, becomes a member of her staff. By happy circumstances—the ones that inflict starry-eyed romantic dramas—we learn she was shorthanded to begin with. Her mother thinks he’s marriage material for her daughter. Her son (Riley Thomas Stewart), semi-public conscious (as children in these films usually are), likes him better than his dad. Briefly skeptical at first, Beth succumbs soon enough. And of course, she finds out about the picture.

“So, it was all part of a (divine) plan!” she explodes on her mother, while chopping down vegetables (like any sensible woman, she doesn’t throw a temper tantrum on the food). “None of us are in control of anything (we do)”, she screams almost half-heartedly. Seeing that The Lucky One is adapted from a Nicolas Sparks novel (The Notebook, Dear John, A Walk to Remember), I’d say that the only one controlling your sappy-fates is Mr Sparks. Better take it out on him, than the veggies.

Directed by Scott Hicks and written by Will Fetters, released by Warner Bros, The Lucky One is rated PG-13. It is a long-winded drama with a series of elaborate romantic moments. It’s a wonder how long the PG-13 rating stretches these days! — Mohammad Kamran Jawaid