“Falling” —In and Out of Love

Falling, the movie
Falling

A post-Valentine’s Day sleeper about romance with a Hitchcockian twist,  “Falling” is a story based on the real-life experience of the novelist Elizabeth Jane Howard.  Howard was courageous in exposing her vulnerability in this absorbing story originally produced for British television and now available on Netflix.

Middle-aged novelist Daisy (Penelope Wilton, the fabulous classical actress of Downton Abbey and “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” fame), is  heartbroken by her husband’s infidelity and subsequent dissolution of her marriage. Escaping to her remote country cottage to write and heal her wounds, Daisy soon becomes smitten by Henry (Michael Kitchen, “Foyle’s War”), a charming gardener who lives in a dilapidated barge near the canal facing her cottage.   Despite the suspicions of her literary agent and other close friends, Daisy is in a fragile state and she allows Henry to stay in the house while she is in London.  She gradually falls in love with him, even though his considerable caregiving makes her uneasy.

Penelope Wilton and Michael Kitchen are gifted actors and deliver intelligent,  nuanced performances in a narrative that may otherwise be somewhat unbelievable.  “Falling” is full of surprises, vacillating between mystery thriller and romance.   Just a glimpse in a single scene can radically change your sympathy for a character.  I loved it!

 

My Top Ten Movies for 2012–Reviewed, Not Necessarily New

Happy New Year–the Year of the Snake in 2013!  Most of all, I want to again thank all of you for your responses and comments, and for continuing to read my blog!

With 2012 coming to an end, I wanted to take a look back at the movie reviews I wrote this year.  When I counted the reviews I have written this year (=21), I wanted to see what would be my top ten favorites.  It wasn’t easy, especially for independent films.

This list is not ranked –only my top ten for 2012, grouped by genre.

INDIES and FOREIGN CINEMA

1) A Separation  (March 23 review)– An Iranian “Rashomon”, this cinematic masterpiece offers a rare view of ordinary Iranians–both affluent and struggling. Minor misunderstandings morph into a slow-motion nightmare that threatens to destroy everything and everyone in its path.

2) Jiro Dreams of Sushi  (April 29 review)– This documentary is much more than a movie about the perfect slab of sushi.  “Jiro Dreams Of Sushi” is a hauntingly elegant meditation on work, obsession, family, and the art of perfection, chronicling Jiro’s life as both an unparalleled success in the culinary world, and a loving yet complicated father.

3) Memory of a Killer (June 18 review)– With a fresh take on the revenge drama, this nail-biter transforms the hired assassin into a kind of moral hero: an aging killer with a conscience.   With an electrifying visual, almost palpable energy, “Memory of a Killer” is a highly original, disturbing and unforgettable thriller.

4) Scottsboro (July 10 review)– The history and analysis of this case deserves to be in every history book of 20th Century US civics. The landmark trial magnified rampant racism, denial of due process, and the continued North-South animosity that existed almost 70 years after the Civil War had ended.

5) Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom (September 2 review)– The home-video footage of the explosive black waves surging towards the coastline of Sendai will render you speechless.  The scale and imagery are overwhelming. This superb film reveals healing wounds and healing people, even in times of disaster.

6) Between the Folds  (August 6 review)– The intersections between origami, mathematics, and science are manifested in a magical sleight-of-hand. I promise you–if you see “Between the Folds”, you will never look at origami, the same way ever again!

7) The Garden (December 3 review)– Juggling politics, race and religion as well as the rights of property ownership in a free-market society,  “The Garden” is an investigation into a complicated case of backroom dealings, racial tensions and the question of just who represents a community.

COMEDIES

8) Best Exotic Marigold Hotel  (June 30 review)– This charming movie, while a paean to the aging baby boomers who are cinephiles,  is also   a shout-out to chasing your dreams, regardless of age.  The hopeful message: it’s never too late to make things happen.

BIG STUDIO MOVIES:

Political and Sociological

9)  Iron Lady (January 12 review)– Meryl Streep’s award-winning performance is achingly honest in its interpretation of  Margaret Thatcher’s powerful intellect, motivations, even perhaps her unconscious.

10) Arbitrage (September 29 review) In this film we witness unrelenting evil and an underlying fear of capture, committed in the pursuit of money and glory.  No one is spared.  This is a morality tale–a tale of hell in a financial guise. Richard Gere gives a virtuoso performance as a man who has lost his way on Wall Street.

Honorable Mention in Action: 

11) Safe House  (February 21 review) Though this is first and foremost a guy’s action-packed blockbuster, there is something for the rest of us. What do people sacrifice in service to the government that others don’t know about and don’t care to know anything about?  Denzel Washington superbly plays the anti-hero in “Safe House” and retains his integrity!

 

“The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”–For the Elderly and Beautiful

Adapted from a novel, These Foolish Things, by Deborah Moggach, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a finely nuanced film portraying seven British retirees:  a  widow (Judi Dench) whose late husband drove her into debt, a bigoted nanny/bookkeeper who is resigned to get a discounted hip replacement in India (Maggie Smith), retired judge (Tom Wilkinson) looking for his long lost lover, a sex fiend  bachelor Norman (Ronald Pickup),  a Blanche Dubois-type femme fatale (Celia Imrie), and a married couple who do not want to live in reduced circumstances in “senior living” (Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilton).

The hotel in Jaipur, India is owned and managed by Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel from “Slumdog Millionaire”) who longs to disguise the decrepit hotel’s faulty plumbing and broken phones with an optimism designed to soothe these seven Brits whose families have “outsourced” them. “Everything will be alright in the end, and if it is not alright, it is not the end,” he reassures his guests who have high expectations for living their golden years in India.  The hotel will be the new home for “people from countries that don’t care about their old people”–for the elderly and beautiful.

Adjustments need to be made–not only to the exotic environment of India but also to the equally unexplored terrain of aging.  Instead of a maudlin discourse on loss and life’s passing, the film is increasingly appealing and buoyant.  The marvel revealed is the resilience of the human spirit, the openness to new experiences and the risk taken to dive into the unknown.   At times this sweet, often hilarious, movie hovers on being sentimental since everyone is trying to figure out what to do with the years remaining in life. To assume defeat from what every one of us as individuals wants suggests we’re not asking the right questions.  In the end “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” is a shout-out to chasing your dreams, regardless of age.

Younger people might not appreciate this film as much as someone closer to retirement but the hopeful message is it’s never too late to make things happen.  Wish fulfillment is in short supply and the target audience for “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” will remember the sweetness and folly of these six Brits for a very long time.