Throwback Thursday: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011)

Retirement presents an interesting conundrum. Our working years are over, but that does not mean that our lives are over. There are opportunities for experiences that simply could not or did not exist when we had to go to work.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011) is the story of a group of British retirees who decide to pick up and move to India. Among them are Evelyn (Judi Dench), Douglas (Bill Nighy), Muriel (Maggie Smith), Graham (Tom Wilkinson), Jean (Penelope Wilton), Norman (Ronald Pickup), and Madge (Celia Imrie). They find a rundown hotel and in addition to the individual adventures, go about fixing it up.

Assisting them is Sonny (Dev Patel). Sonny is long on enthusiasm and dreams, but short on the practical aspects of opening and maintaining the hotel. He also has a significant other that his mother openly disapproves of.

The prequel to The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, this movie is charming, entertaining, and lovely. The cast is picture perfect, the imagery is lovely, and the story is perfect. It proves that life does not end when we stop working.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Summerland Movie Review

Sometimes, life can throw changes our way. We may not initially like that change, but we may end up surprised by the results.

Summerland (2020) is a BPD that takes place on the coast of England during World War II. Alice (played by Gemma Arterton as a younger woman and Penelope Wilton as the older Alice decades later) is a prickly writer who lives alone. She does not care for company and is seen as an oddity by her neighbors.

As the war rages on, children are being evacuated from the cities to the country. Frank (Lucas Bond) is a young boy who needs a temporary home. Begrudgingly, Alice takes him in. As they start to grow on one another, we flash back to Alice’s past and her relationship with Vera (Gugu Mbatha-Raw).

It’s a really sweet story about love, acceptance, and opening your heart to someone whom you never expected to. The casting is top-notch and the film is entirely watchable. It is also a reminder that love is love is love, regardless of gender or sexual identity.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely.

Operation Mincemeat Movie Review

When it seems that every story about World War II has been told, the door opens to reveal additional narratives that have remained hidden.

The new Netflix film, Operation Mincemeat premiered last week. Based on a book by Ben Macintyre, it tells the story of a secret mission to end the war via a corpse and false papers.

Among those who are in on the secret are Ewen Montagu (Colin Firth), Charles Cholmondeley (Matthew MacFadyen), future James Bond creator Ian Fleming (Johnny Flynn), Jean Leslie (Kelly Macdonald), and Hester Leggett (Penelope Wilton). They know that if they succeed, it could mean victory for the Allies. But getting to that point requires strategy, timing, skill, and a little bit of luck.

For obvious reasons, the movie was a must-see. A cast chock full of Austen actors (including the two most popular Fitzwilliam Darcys), a spy thriller set in World War II-era England, and the fight for freedom against tyranny.

I have mixed feelings about it. What was good was that the main female characters were initially more than secretaries, love interests/spouses/female family members, and background characters. They were as important to the mission as their male colleagues. I also very much appreciated the subtle reference to the Holocaust and the destruction of European Jewry. It reveals that the Allies once again knew what was going on, but did nothing to stop it (which is another topic for another time).

What was bad is that about halfway through the film, I started to lose interest. It was as if the screenwriter(s) just gave up. The other thing that bugged me was the love triangle between Charles, Jean, and Ewen. It felt unnecessary. It also trivializes Jean, making her little more than the wannabe romantic significant other instead of an integral part of the group.

Do I recommend it? Disappointingly, no.

Operation Mincemeat is available for streaming on Netflix.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society Review

As much as we wish we could control where life takes us, we know that we can’t.

In the 2018 Netflix movie, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society (based on the book of the same name), Juliet Ashton (Lily James) is an author in post World War II England. Intrigued by a letter she receives from Dawsey Adams (Michiel Huisman) a farmer on the island of Guernsey, Juliet visits the island with the intention of writing a book.

She discovers that Dawsey is part of a book club entitled The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Included in this club is Amelia Maugery (Penelope Wilton) and Elizabeth McKenna (Jessica Brown Findlay). Intrigued as to why and how Elizabeth disappeared, Juliet starts to investigate what happened during the German occupation of the island during the war. Along the way, Juliet discovers a new family and a new love that forces her to re-consider where she wants to go in life.

Award worthy, this film is not. That being said, it’s the type of movie one watches after a long week to relax. Though it helps that several of the main cast are Downton Abbey alum, it is does not do enough to overcome the film’s flaws.

Do I recommend it? Maybe.

Thoughts On the full trailer for the Downton Abbey Movie

A good movie trailer is essentially a tease of the full movie. It gives enough away to tempt the audience to pay to see the movie, but it doesn’t (well hopefully it doesn’t) give away too much of the narrative.

The full trailer for the Downton Abbey movie was released earlier today.

Based on the uber-successful BPD Masterpiece television program of the same name created and written by Julian Fellows, the movie starts in 1927, a year after the series ended. King George V and Queen Mary will soon be visiting Downton, causing all sorts of commotion. I also fully expect there to be plenty of personal drama between the characters while the household is preparing for their royal visitors.

I am definitely looking forward to seeing this movie.

P.S. Whoever decided to end the trailer with a delicious verbal duel between Isobel (Penelope Wilton) and Violet (Maggie Smith) is a genius.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society Movie Trailer

The translation from the page to the silver screen is often a dicey one. Especially for a beloved book.

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer was originally published in 2009. In 1946, Juliet Ashton is a writer looking for next subject. She received a letter from a man living on the island of Guernsey, whose residents survived German occupation during World War II.

Recently, the trailer for the film adaptation was released.

While I could not get through the book, the movie looks very interesting. One of the appealing aspects of the movie (for me at least) is a mini-Downton Abbey reunion. Lily James, Penelope Wilton, Matthew Goode and Jessica Brown Findlay are all part of the cast. While the film will not hit US theaters until later in the year, I can only hope that the film delivers on the promises in the trailer.

 

Belle Movie Review: C’est Magnifique

I’m a girl. I like romances and more specifically I like period romances. I like see men wearing stockings, breeches and neck clothes. I like seeing woman wearing petticoats, corsets and  long dresses. But that doesn’t mean I want a mindless, predictable story with an ending that can be seen a mile away. I like an intelligent story that makes me laugh, that makes me think, all while providing the happily ever after that makes me smile at the end of the story.

I am very happy to report that Belle is such a story.

It is based on the true story Dido Elizabeth Belle (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), a bi-racial woman raised on her great uncle’s estate in 1780’s England. Her father, Captain Sir John Lindsay (Matthew Goode) is only able to care for his daughter for a brief time before he passes her to his uncle to raise.  His uncle, Lord Mansfield  (Tom Wilkinson) was Lord Chief Justice at the time, was reviewing a case in regards to a slave ship where many of the slaves were drowned.

When Dido reaches the age when marriage is expected, there are road blocks. She is attracted to the son of a local vicar, John Davinier (Sam Reid), but finds herself and her cousin Elizabeth Murray (Sarah Gadon) in the company of  James Ashford (Tom Felton), his brother Oliver (James Norton) and their mother, Lady Ashford (Miranda Richardson).  Dido’s mother figures, her aunts, Lady Mansfield (Emily Watson) and  Lady Mary Murray (Penelope Wilton) do their best, but they are blinded by their own prejudices.

This movie is wonderful. While it has the hallmarks of a BPD (British Period Drama), it also brings up issues that have not been raised in the genre previously.  I’ve seen many BPD’s, but 99.9% of them have an all white cast, the issue of racism and people of color in England is rarely addressed. It also addresses the fact that English women, up until approximately WWI, had no rights. They were chattel. Wealthy women and aristocratic women, were especially viewed as chattel. If they were lucky, they had  a father or a  brother and then eventually a husband who loved them and respected them.

I highly recommend this movie.

 

Downton Abbey Series 4 Episode 2 Recap

As usual, this recap contains spoilers.  If you have not seen the episode, read at your own risk.

Upstairs

Edith brings Michael to meet her parents and hopes to receive approval on their relationship. Robert’s lack of money and business acumen comes into play once again when he nearly loses the estate in a card game and Michael has to bail him out.

Half listening to Carson, Robert agrees that Dame Nellie Melba (Kiri Te Kanawa), who is coming to perform should dine with the servants.  Cora rightly calls him out on his error.

Robert is a nice guy, but for the rest of his life, to keep his wife and family happy he should do two things.  Every time Cora makes a suggestion, the only words he should say in response is “yes, dear”.  Any money or estate matters should be filtered by Mary and Tom, otherwise there might be nothing left for George and Sybee.

Anthony Gillingham (Tom Cullen), a childhood playmate of the Mary and Edith has come to visit and seems to be the one who might finally pull Mary out of her grief.

Isobel is still grieving for Matthew. While she doesn’t want Mary grieving for the rest of her life, Isobel is unable to move past the death of her son. My favorite performance of the entire episode was Penelope Wilton’s performance.  While the press and praise often go to Michelle Dockery or Maggie Smith, Ms. Wilton deserves the same press and praise.  If I could have walked through the screen to hug Isobel, I would have.

Tom is feeling out of place and foolish, trying to socialize with his in law’s friends.

Downstairs

I don’t want to talk about Mr. Green raping Anna, but it’s unavoidable.  Of all of the female characters, Julian Fellows chose this fate for Anna. If he was looking for a way to shake up the marital happiness of Anna and John Bates, there are other story lines. Unless he is looking to make a statement.

Mrs. Patmore has an anxiety attack and is forced to relinquish control of her kitchen.

Evil Edna is determined to lay her claws in Tom, even if it means seduction.

Analysis

The series is moving along and as happens in everyone’s life, things happen.  I am looking forward to next week’s episode.

Dowager Moment/Quote Of The Week

“If I were to search for logic, I would not look for it in the English upper class.”

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