My Old Lady (2014) Movie Review

Among the dozen films I’d watched at the Toronto International Film Festival last September, two are apt selections for the annual Paris In July blogging event hosted by Tamara in Thyme for Tea, now in its sixth year. Recently I have re-watched both, one at an indie theatre, the other on Blu-ray. Here’s my first entry to Paris In July 2015.

Paris in July 2015 Icon


My Old Lady (2014)

Just when voices had been raised in recent months from female stars against the sexist domination in Hollywood, and lamenting the lack of significant female leading roles, another issue pops up. Well, the problem has been there all along, but who would speak for those who are…. getting old? The peril of Agism in the movie industry. And, if you’re female and aging, confronting Hollywood is a losing battle.

I’m glad there are filmmakers who consider film as an art form, and in its essence, conveys the meaningful and universal that make us human. Kudos to all who attempt to break the barrier. Here we have a directorial debut from 75 year-old Isaac Horowitz. As he had noted, which first-time film director would talk about his five grandchildren?

Horowitz is an author of more than 50 produced plays. Several of his works have been translated and performed in as many as 30 languages worldwide. This is his first time directing a film, adapting his own play onto the big screen. My Old Lady is a delightful debut. I’ve watched it three times, so far, and liked it more each time.

My Old Lady Poster

In an after screen talk, Horowitz shared that he had heeded one advice from the iconic director Sydney Lumet: “Cast the best actors in the world and then get out of their way.” In his debut movie, his cast is first-rate, and allow me to show their age when they made this movie, just to prove a point: Maggie Smith, 80, Kristin Scott Thomas, 54, and Kevin Kline, 67. How much the director had left them to their own I don’t know, but sure looks easy for these veteran actors to take on this one. Such natural ease comes from decades of experience, expertise honed as innate skills.

That’s the advantage of ageing. Let’s drink to that.

Kevin Kline plays Mathias Gold, a down-and-out, thrice divorced, alcohol dependent, penniless middle-aged American who is relieved to inherit from his late father an apartment in the Marais district of Paris. Going there to claim his rightful ownership and aiming at a quick sale, he learns a French lesson in property transfers instead: En Viager. When his father purchased the apartment 43 years ago – now worth over 10 million Euros – he was under the contracted stipulation of a Viager.

This is the issue Mathias faces: Instead of a lump sum payment made for a clear purchase, his father, the buyer, had contracted to put down a cheap amount and then pay the rest as viager, a monthly fee of 2,400 Euro to the vendor and occupant of the apartment, Mathilde Girard (Maggie Smith), until she dies. Now at 90, Mathilde is in good health, thanks to her daily sustenance of red wine and precise meal times. Not only that, Mathilde has a daughter living with her, headstrong and vocal to defend their property against any potential profit-driven redevelopment plans.

That’s the story. It is not hard to predict the ending, with Kline and Scott Thomas together, albeit fiery and combative to start with. But what is harder to foresee is the story within the story at the outset. Everyone has a past. This is one of the best performance I’ve seen with Kline, for he carries the whole film and delivers with just the right touch of humour and pathos. The first time the two were co-stars was in Life As A House (2001), interestingly, another story based on a domicile. Life as a house indeed.

Scott Thomas as always is a pleasure to watch. No matter what role she takes up, her communication is crisp and clear even without having had to say a word. The last scene is a prime example. But of course, you don’t have to wait till the last. As for Maggie Smith, at 80, she is as strong as ever, even when she is playing one who is ten years older.

When it comes to plays turned into films, one should expect the prolific dialogues. Not a perfect fit all the time, there are moments where I as a movie viewer expect better lines, and more than stage-like scenes. But overall, the three characters are a delight to watch.

The few external Parisian street scenes with their fine matching music score instil longing. Yes, this is the kind of films that work best to lure you to Paris, not to the hot tourist sites, but to the streets where Parisians actually live. Subliminal seduction registering in my mind that next time I must go to those districts which are less trodden by tourists but equally representative of the historic city. Maybe a B&B right there in the Marais instead of a boutique hotel.

My Old Lady is a light comedy with a heart, bringing out an issue that, alas, could not be fully resolved, for what’s done cannot be undone. Offsprings inherit from their parents not only the physical properties but often the emotional baggages and their consequences. As a dramedy, Horowitz has brought us not only the drama but the happy ending, the best case scenario that can come out of human failings. That could well be a reason why we go see movies.

~ ~ ~ Ripples


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The Second, Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

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For a list of Paris in July Posts from previous years, CLICK HERE.

The Second, Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2015)

The comma is not a typo. If you pause there before you say the rest, you’re clear in announcing the sequel, and not ‘The Second Best…’ for it’s not.

I’d say, it’s a little better maybe, funnier and more lively than the first. I can hear some protests. But in my case, kudos to the Bollywood dancers entertaining us before the movie began – two pairs of youthful and energetic Indian dancers giving us a taste of Bollywood – we were all warmed up and ready to embrace the show.

Who will speak up against Ageism in the movie industry? What better spokespersons than the stars themselves? Let their charisma and performance speak.

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is all about checking into new beginnings. In the last chapter, life can be beautiful and fulfilling, and one is never too late to enjoy it, even if they are merely ephemeral, fleeting moments. With the latent energy of the Marigold residents, they intend to make those precious moments last for the rest of their lives.

Director John Madden, who helmed Shakespeare in Love (1998) and saw it go on to win seven Oscars, brings us the sequel to his unexpected box office success of the first Marigold Hotel. This is no Shakespeare In Love, of course, but from the digital ink of screenwriter Ol Parker, we have some fine dialogues despite a lack of substantial plot lines; from the mouths of the seasoned and weathered come some refreshing viewpoints.

Even if you’re not starstruck, you have to tip your hat to this cast of talents, veteran actors whose average age works out to be 70; yes, I looked them up and did the math. Two-time Oscar winner Maggie Smith, Judi Dench (also Oscar winner and exactly 19 days older than Maggie in real life, as she said in the movie), Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton, Ronald Pickup, Celia Imrie, Diana Hardcastle, and this time around, the newly-aged and still handsome Richard Gere, with David Strathairn also playing a small role.

The young proprietor of the retirement hotel in Jaipur, India, Sonny Kapoor, is eagerly planning for an expansion of his business venture, a second Marigold Hotel. Performed with much animation by Dev Patel of Slumdog Millionaire fame, Sonny is basically the foil, not just in his youthfulness and agile Bollywood dance skills, but in his overacting. My query: why is his Indian accent thicker than his mother’s (Lillete Dubey)? Nevertheless, watching the threesome, the soon-to-be-married Sonny and Sunaina (Tina Desai) plus the odd addition of Kushal (Shazad Latif), is energizing and mood altering. In the last act, having the Marigold residents join in the Bollywood dance at the wedding party is a treat, an acquired taste for some viewers I admit.

Under the direction of DP Ben Smithard, we see some colourful street scenes and beautiful sights. Following the constant panning camera between pillars and doorways, we become silent observers of the lives of these Marigold residents.

Throughout the movie, I’ve jotted down a few fine lines which, if spoken by the inexperienced, could well become platitudes. But here delivered by these professionals of film and stage, the one-liners are spot-on and memorable. Everyone has a story and there are a few notable dialogues, like this between the eldest pair swept by clashing undercurrents:

Muriel (Maggie Smith): You’re just nineteen days older than I am.
Evelyn (Judi Dench): Nineteen days is the life span of a wasp.

Exactly, time is relative. Fact is, time is what these Marigold residents don’t have. That’s what makes each of their story so pressing. At 79, Evelyn is faced with the choice of accepting or declining a new career as well as a genuine but shy suitor, Douglas (Bill Nighy). Her feeling in a nutshell:

“Sometimes it seems the difference between what we want and what we fear is the width of an eyelash.”

Good that she realizes just in time, and it’s clever how she conveys her message to Douglas at Sonny’s wedding. So, her new insight after much pondering:

“I thought, how many new lives can we have? Then I thought, as many as we like.”

And for Norman (Ronald Pickup) and Carol (Diana Hardcastle), it’s never too late to change as we see love turn them from promiscuity to monogamy. Well, even a faint attempt is encouraging.

As for Madge (Celia Imrie), she finally decides which direction she should take, left, right, or straight ahead, probably for the first time in her life.

Who can laugh at the old but themselves? Here when Jean (Penelope Wilton) suddenly reappears at the Marigold, I can associate her role as the sharp-tongued Isobel Crawley in Downton Abbey:

“I couldn’t resist the opportunity to come out and visit the old ruins, and see how the hotel was doing too.”

As a self-appointed tour guide in Jaipur, Douglas knows it’s never too old to step out into uncharted territory. Some good laughs there with his little helper in the background feeding him info or he’ll be just as lost as his tourist clients. As well, he is experiencing love like an insecure young chap. This is my favourite line, not only for the words but the way Nighy says them can make your heart ache:

“The great and terrible thing about life is there’s just so much bloody potential.” The subtext is brilliantly conveyed by his obvious frustration and agitated demeanour.

Ah… “There is no present like the time” [sic, exactly]

Time is a gift and a torment when you’re only given a limited portion under the low-hanging clouds of mortality. Here’s the poignant scene at the end. It belongs to Muriel (Maggie Smith), could well be foreshadowing what we will see in Season 6 of Downton Abbey. Her voiceover is full of pathos:

“There is no such thing as an ending; just a place where you leave the story.”

Of course there are flaws in the movie. But just like wrinkles, you’ve come to overlook them while admiring the person. Call it an escape or a two-hour vacation, The Second, Best Exotic Hotel offers a fun and gratifying ride.

 ~ ~ ~ Ripples


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The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2012)

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Slumdog Millionaire (2008)

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Outsourcing old age, that’s the idea.

Imagine in the distant (or not so distant) future, you retire to a warm climate, enjoy a colourful land and best of all, affordable living in a retirement resort. The concept is sold to several retirees from Britain. Little do they know the advertised Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the Elderly and Beautiful is a run-down establishment of faded glory. The place is Jaipur, India.

The Hotel owner is Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel of Slumdog Millionaire fame) who has inherited the property from his late father. Despite his mother’s insistence to close it down and get him back to live with her in Delhi to marry the girl of her choice, Sonny is determined to make it on his own. He has already picked out his girl, and is positive about his plan to outsource retirement, among many other services India is already offering to foreign countries.

The trailer doesn’t do justice to the movie. When I first watched it, I was totally baffled … why would such a top-notch cast of veteran British actors take up what seems to be a shallow and silly farce? But after watching the movie, I think I can make a guess: they must have known what fun it would be to do this, they must have sensed the thematic relevance as well. Why I went out to see it if I didn’t like the trailer? I just couldn’t resist the combined star power and my trust in their judgment.

Where can you see these actors together on one big screen: Judi Dench, Evelyn, who has depended on her husband all the years but now recently widowed, decides to take charge of her life; Maggie Smith, Muriel, who is xenophobic and won’t eat anything she can’t pronounce, goes to India mainly to have a hip replacement she can afford; Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilton, Douglas and Jean, are an incompatible couple who sticks together out of habit and loyalty; Tom Wilkinson, Graham, a judge who follows his heart and returns to his former home to look for a long-lost friend; Celia Imrie, Madge, who at retirement is still looking for the right one, and Ronald Pickup, Norman, seems to know exactly what he wants.

The humour is natural and not forced, the dialogues are witty and refreshing. Something that is not easily found in comedies, with the expert cast of veteran actors, a sense of seriousness exudes from their performance, giving weight to the characters and making their simple storylines convincing.

Oscar nominated director John Madden (Shakespeare In Love,1998) has done a great job in concocting the on-screen chemistry of his cast. Their camaraderie as fellow travellers from the UK and as guests in the Marigold Hotel emit an appealing and quiet persuasion. I’ve enjoyed every one of their storylines. From the very start of the film, I’m drawn into each of the characters while they are still in England. I follow their journey expectantly, open and ready to accept the unfolding of events.

As with all ‘exotic’ movies, there bound to be cultural features that can easily lead to stereotyping and patronizing. That I expected. But what I didn’t was that these ‘typical’ renderings are few and mostly restrained. Further, shot right in Udaipur, India, many scenes are in situ happenings that come out naturalistic and real. The whole movie is a delightful surprise, probably the main one is, I don’t mind watching it again.

~ ~ ~ Ripples

Quotable Quotes from Downton Abbey

SEASON 6 Recaps:

SEASON 6 FINALE: Goodbye to All That

SEASON 6 Episode 1, Jan.3, 2016

SEASON 6 Episode 2, Jan. 10, 2016

SEASON 6 Episode 3, Jan. 17, 2016

SEASON 6 Episode 4, Jan. 24, 2016

SEASON 6 Episode 5, Jan. 31, 2016

SEASON 6 Episode 6, Feb. 7, 2016


‘You can’t do very much as an actress unless you have the proper words to say…’ — Penelope Wilton, Isobel Crawley

Four weeks have passed since Downton Abbey Season 2 Finale aired on PBS. How are you holding up? To alleviate Downton Abbey withdrawal symptoms, I’ve been in a perpetual state of re-watching all the episodes from Season 1 and 2. Downton Abbey on Blu-ray is absolutely beautiful.

Downton Abbey film location: Highclere Castle

This Golden Globe, Emmy, and BAFTA award-winning miniseries has many appeals. For me, apart from the sumptuous setting, attention to details, great acting, and inspiring cinematography, the main attraction is the writing. Julian Fellowes’ script gives us intelligent dialogues reminiscent of Oscar Wilde’s wit and satire.

I have compiled a list of quotes from both Seasons. Lucky for 78 year-old Maggie Smith, she gets the best lines as Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham.

Here they are in chronological order so you can reprise the scene. Enjoy!

Season 1

“O, heavens, girl. You’re building a fire, not inventing it.” — Mrs. Hughes to Daisy, S1E1

“Nothing in life is sure.” — Mrs. Patmore, re. Titanic sinking, S1E1

Mrs. Patmore and Daisy

“Every mountain is unclimbable until someone climbs it. So every ship is unsinkable until it sinks.” — Lord Grantham, S1E1

“We are allies, my dear, which can be a good deal more effective.” Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham, in reply to Cora Crawley’s “Are we to be friends, then?” S1E1

Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess of Grantham

“What is a ‘weekend’?” — Violet Crawley, S1E2

“Daisy, what’s happened to you? I said you could go for a drink of water, not a trip up the Nile.”  — Mrs. Patmore. S1E3

“Are you afraid someone will think you’re American if you speak openly?” — Lord Grantham to Dowager Countess, S1E3

Dowager Countess and Lord Grantham

“But nobody learns anything from a governess, apart from French and how to curtsey.” Lady Sybil, S1E4

“No one ever warns you about bringing up daughters. You think it’s going to be like Little Women. Instead they’re at each other’s throats from dawn till dusk.” — Cora Crawley,  Countess of Grantham, S1E5

The Crawley Sisters

“Mary can be such a child. She thinks that if you put a toy down, it’ll still be sitting there when you want to play with it again.” — Lord Grantham, S1E5

“I love you Mr. Bates. I know it’s not ladylike to say it, but I’m not a lady and I don’t pretend to be.”  — Anna, S1E5
Mr. Bates and Anna
“If she won’t say yes when he might be poor, he won’t want her when he will be rich.” — Violet Crawley, Dowager Countess, S1E7
“First electricity, now telephones. Sometimes I feel as if I were living in an H.G. Wells novel.”  — Violet Crawley, S1E7
Season 2
Mary Crawley seeing Matthew off to war.
 “War has a way of distinguishing between the things that matter and the things that don’t.” — Matthew Crawley, S2E1
Matthew Crawley in the trench

“I’m not a romantic… But even I concede that the heart does not exist solely for the purpose of pumping blood.” Violet Crawley, S2E2

“I’m a woman, Mary. I can be as contrary as I choose.” Violet Crawley, S2E4

“Are you like everyone else in thinking that because she’s a countess she has acquired universal knowledge by divine intervention?” Isobel Crawley to Dr. Clarkson re. Cora, Countess of Grantham, S2E4  (And you can substitute the word ‘countess’ with any word you need when quoting it.)

Dr. Clarkson and Isobel Crawley

“I’d rather have the right man, than the right wedding.” — Anna, S2E5

“I’m an American, I don’t share your English hatred of comfort.” Cora Crawley to Lord Grantham, S2E6

Lord Grantham and Cora Crawley

“Don’t be defeatist, dear. It’s very middle class.”  Violet Crawley to Edith, S2E8

“Sir Richard, life is a game in which the player must appear ridiculous.” Violet Crawley, Last Episode, Christmas at Downton Abbey.

“I want a good man for you, a brave man. Find a cowboy in the Middle West and bring him back to shake us up a bit.” Robert Crawley to daughter Mary. Last Episode, Christmas at Downton Abbey.

“1920. Is it to be believed? I feel as old as Methuselah.” Violet Crawley, Last Episode, Christmas at Downton Abbey.



DOWNTON Season 5 Finale, March 2, 2015: A Moorland Holiday


Season 4 Episode 8 (PBS): London 

Season 4 Episode 7 (PBS) 

Season 4 Episode 6 (PBS)

Season 4 Episode 5 (PBS)

Season 4 Episode 4 (PBS)

Season 4 Episode 3 (PBS)

Season 4 Episode 2 (PBS)

Downton Abbey Season 4 Opening (2 Hour) Special 


CLICK HERE to Quotable Quotes from Season 3: New List




SEASON 3: EPISODES 4 & 5 (More Downton Quotes)

SEASON 3: EPISODES 6 & 7 Finale

CLICK HERE to visit the Highclere Castle website. An absolute must-see.


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Quotable Quotes from Downton Abbey Season 3

Downton Abbey The Complete Scripts: Season 1

The Downton Ripples

Lady Almina and the real Downton Abbey: Facts that Give Rise to Fiction