"It's funny how the colors of the real world only seem really real when you viddy them on the screen."

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Is Ebert Getting Soft?

I watched two films last night both on Roger Ebert's glowing recommendations.  The first, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, has an amazing cast, and an incredible setting to work with, but the storyline seemed so contrived I couldn't get past it.  He gave it 3.5 stars.  It had a few great lines, but please.

Maybe I just don't know any people like this, or maybe it's because I'm not British, but a few of the characters are destitute, having lost their entire life savings, and they feel the best way to manage their retirement is to fly to India and move into a hotel sight unseen.  I get that it's cheaper to live in India than Britain, but couldn't they stay with a friend in town?  How did they pay for the plane ticket?  Will they just never see their kids again?  Why don't all the poor in Britain move to India?  And how did Judi Dench's character get a work Visa?  I suppose I shouldn't let the minor details ruin the flavour of the film, but the themes had me rolling my eyes too.

This is a love-conquors-all film.  Love is great and all, but there is more to life. Some of the characters are in an amazing new country, but their only concern is getting laid.  They need to feel young again.  It reminded me of that horrid Pippa movie I watched recently. I know several people in their 60s and 70s who don't spend their days and nights trying to feel young again - or at the very least they don't need to have sex in order to feel vital.  Why aren't they ever represented in mainstream movies?  And everyone's so concerned that everyone else gets partnered up, yet they leave out poor Maggie Smith.  Nobody encourages her to get with anybody - or to never give up being sexy.  Is it because she's temporarily disabled, or because she's too old?

And why is outsourcing retirement living to India seen as a good thing that we all should hope works out?  

I love Maggie Smith.  To most people these days she's Professor McGonagall, but I can't stop seeing Miss Jean Brodie.  (I think I saw that one at a far too impressionable age.)  And I love that the crabby wife is the mom from Shaun of the Dead.  And Bill Nighy and Tom Wilkinson are two of my favourite actors, and I'm loving Dev Patel these days (having just recently seen Slumdog).  But why did Tom's character wait so long to re-connect with the love of his life?  Couldn't they have exchanged addresses and kept in touch after he moved away?  It's just a far too convenient plot devise.  And why did a woman who's lived in India her entire life decide to move in to this hotel?  And what's with the tearful phone calls to people back home when they all have computers and the internet.  Doesn't Skype work there?  There were a few too many easy roads taken with the material and too many inconsistencies for me to call this a winner.  But the actors were a delight to watch, and it entertained me enough to keep me awake as I marked tests.  So that's something.  I didn't hate it, but it wasn't worthy of its cast.
Maybe a B-.

But the second movie Ebert recommended has far less to cushion it:  The Odd Life of Timothy Green.


It's an interesting premise.  A couple wish so hard for a kid, that their wish comes true and they get the exact kid they wanted - but with leaves growing on him (because he sprouted out of the garden).  But, of course, this is partially a careful-what-you-wish-for film.  And if you want to see a great film with that premise, watch Ted instead - a fantastic film in many ways.  Odd Life  could have been good, and it started really well, but then it got painfully schlocky.  The kid's a misfit, yet is able to turn curmudgeonly hearts to butter.  Whatever.  I can handle that.  It's that his family saved the town's pencil factory from closing with a proposal to make pencils out of leaves and thus save all the trees.  Um...  I don't think so.  And the over acting was painful to watch, especially, and this is hard to say, Dianne Wiest - whom I typically adore.  Jennifer Garner acted in the same way she acts in every movie, and that's getting tiresome all on its own.  And if you want to just dive right into the schlockiness of the film, the little girl they end up with should have been called Ivy!    Ebert gave this 3.5 stars.  I'm giving it a solid D.   But I got even more marking done. 

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