“Just because I’m looking at you when you talk, don’t think I’m listening — or even interested.” Maggie Smith to Judy Dench
I had a free couple of hours and decided reluctantly to see The Second Exotic Marigold Hotel as a matter of duty. If it is a comedy, there was not one laugh in the cinema this afternoon. To date over 3 million people saw the film and generally the critics have been favourable.
I suffered for two hours this overlong slapdash confection of ‘tourist India’ sequences, alternating with the most cheesy superficial romcom routines. 5 or was it 6 couples with problems, unbelievable meaningless problems, get together in the end. I could not wait for the closing Bollywood dance. It is true that there are more Indian characters than in the previous Marigold Hotel but this time the British colonial attitude is spiced up with some American touches.
I had to go to my dictionary to find the definition of popular as this is, viewing figures tell us, a popular film. From the Oxford dictionary: intended for or suited to the taste, understanding, or means of the general public rather than specialists or intellectuals. I understand that the lure of famous actors from Judi Dench to Richard Gere, beautiful colourful shots of India’s markets and streets, romance and dance can seduce. But why can’t specialists and intellectuals who are film critics, bring themselves to apply the same criteria that they use to any other film? Is this ageism in reverse? Is it a reluctance to criticise our sacred celebrity actors because they are old?
In the Observer and on radio, Kermode explains: Lacking the narrative clarity of its predecessor, this patchy sequel juggles too many character-threads to be anything more than episodic. Still, there’s a vast (and deserved) reservoir of affection for the cast, and the ramshackle but likable results will go down well with a cup of tea at what will doubtless be packed matinée screenings.
Yes I think this is ageism in reverse. The film with a different cast playing these old characters would not get anywhere. The praise is often laced with ageist remarks as above or Rebello in Playboy “take your mother. She’ll thank you”. And indeed in many many reviews there are major reservations about the poor narrative, the weak dialogue, but 3 stars or more are given, I presume because of the actors’ high profile and fame.
PS: I found Maggie Smith’s one liner above so apt to describe my feelings about this film.