British retirees travel to India to take up residence in what they believe is a newly restored hotel. Less luxurious than its advertisements, the Marigold Hotel nevertheless slowly begins to charm in unexpected ways.
Based on a very clever comedy by Claire Booth, wife of Time Publisher Henry Luce and later Ambassador to Italy. One of the surprises was an all-woman cast, novel in the 1930's. And although there were no men in the cast, most of the dialog was about them. The story is rather thin and depended on the fact that divorce, in the 1930's, was not only difficult but almost impossible in New York. Mrs. Stephen Haynes learns that her husband is seeing a salesgirl at Saks, and reluctantly divorces him, abetted by her friends, all of whom have romantic problems of their own. In the 1930's New York women who could afford it went to Nevada, where residency could be established quickly and divorce was relatively easy. The 1939 film, starring Norma Shearer, Paulette Goddard, Rosalind Russell, and Joan Crawford, was a hit. This one, with an even better looking cast, is definitely not, largely because someone tried to move a 1930's situation comedy into the present. Written by
It was an impossible task to update a classic that was embedded in its time and as such could travel the waves of time intact because we could adapt to its historical context. Now this 2008 version seems the one that's dated. I used to love Meg Ryan, reminded me of Carol Lombard now she's more like Joan Rivers, in appearance if not in spirit. There is nothing funny about her. Strangely enough she looks better in the second part of the film. In any case, the modernity of Norma Shearer's performance is unbeatable. Annette Bening is better but couldn't cancel the memory of Rosalind Russell, who could? If one can divorce oneself from the George Cukor original, and one must to be able to sit through it, there are a few pleasures to be had, mostly thanks to Cloris Leachman, Candice Bergen (playing Meg Ryan's mom for the second time, remember "Rich and Famous"?) and Bette Midler in a much to brief stint playing the part once played by Mary Boland. The most unforgivable blunder is Eva Mendes's Crystal. She couldn't fill Joan Crawford's shoes not even by mistake. Her performance is vulgar, jarring and ugly. How strange that someone as smart as Diane English could give us such a confusing picture of women. Oh well, I had to see it, I saw it and I'm very disappointed but hardly surprised.
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