“If You Had the Chance to Change Your Fate, Would You?”

Brave. Pixar. Strong Woman. Pure Magic. Love

These seven words are my “less than 140 character” review of the movie Brave. I loved it. Trust the creative minds at Pixar to develop a plot that combines a strong female character, a mother-daughter relationship and a look at breaking with tradition, churning it all together into the magical movie that is Brave.

We saw the trailer for so many weeks before the movie was released that we had memorized the lines; the more memorable ones being “If you had the chance to change your fate, would ya?” said with a lovely Scottish lilt and “I’m Merida and I’ll shoot for my own hand!”

If you had the chance to change your fate, would ya?

To briefly summarize, the princess Merida is the eldest child of her parents (King Fergus and Queen Elinor) and the time has come for her parents to invite suitors to compete for her hand in marriage. Being a free spirit she’ll have none of it and seeks to find a way to change her mother’s mind. The result is a change she never intended, resulting in consequences that make for a clever plot, an evolution of the mother-daughter relationship, a challenge to the custom of arranged marriages and the “growing-up” of a girl.

Merida is delightful as the strong-willed, red-headed heroine, as skilled at archery as any man, an agile horse rider and full of personality. In true Pixar fashion, the characters are so cute that you want to eat them!

As one who goes to the movies to feel something I was not disappointed – rather I was enveloped in the emotions of the film. It helped that Julie Fowlis, a Scottish musician, took me into another world with her Celtic song “Tha Mo Ghaol Air Aird A’ Chuain”.

I realized as the movie drew me further into the plot that I wanted my daughters there with me. Most mom/daughter relationships go through their stages of connection, disconnect, and finally a hope of reconnect that will transform into a unique friendship. The film was a beautiful picture of coming to terms with the differences that can present themselves between mothers and daughters; those that threaten to destroy, particularly when emotions run strong. Yet when worked through, they make the bond more enduring. Coupled with that is the quiet pride that a mom feels when she sees her daughter become a woman in her own right, displaying strength and resolve, those life gifts that take them so far. The part during the film where you know Queen Elinor is feeling this sentiment is captured with great humor but telling you would be a spoiler so I’ll leave it at that.

So to Annie and Stefanie – My brave girls-turned-women – When we’re all together in a few weeks we’ll go see Brave. And I am convinced that both of you, like Merida, will “Shoot for your own hand!” and hit the target.

Places to Retire: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the Elderly & Beautiful

From the moment I saw Maggie Smith, sitting in a crowded Indian bus surrounded by men, women and children, refusing food with the dismissive line “No thank you! If I can’t pronounce it, I don’t want to eat it” I knew I would be first in line to see this film.

A sea of grey met us as we entered the theatre – and it wasn’t the curtains. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a movie this full of older adults! Swallowing our pride, we took our seats along with the other elderly, just glad we still had sprite in our steps and hoping we would look like the “young couple in the audience”.

We quickly forgot grey and age as we journeyed across the ocean, landing in India. From the drab of the United Kingdom to the sunshine and color of Jaipur, this film was pure delight from the opening scenes. Predictable? Maybe. Award winning? Who knows? But full of life and promise? Five Stars and more.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel begins in England where three men and four women, all retirement age, find themselves in less than satisfactory circumstances. Though their life situations are vastly different, ranging from a retired high court judge (Tom Wilkinson) to a housekeeper who has been “let go” (Maggie Smith), they are all in the same place of being lured to Jaipur through glossy advertising, a promise of luxury and a desire that their money would go farther. The goal of their journey? To enjoy a blissful and long-term (if not permanent) stay at the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (for the Elderly and Beautiful)

As soon as they arrive it is clear that there is a massive disconnect between what was advertised and what currently exists. The advertisement is the dream of their enthusiastic host, Sonny (played by Dev Patel) and the reality is dust-covered bedrooms, cracking walls and rooms with no doors. In this context we follow their lives as they are transplanted into Indian soil.

The cast brings some of the best British actors together as they negotiate life in India midst the chaos, confusion and colors of a world far removed from their native England.

It was poignant and sometimes humorous watching Muriel (Maggie Smith) transform from an uptight, non-negotiating racist, to someone who begins to love both the people and the place, ultimately devoting herself to the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. I also felt a sadness and not a little frustration for Jean (Penelope Wilton of Downton Abbey) and Douglas (Bill Nighy), the one married couple in the group, as Douglas embraced all that Jaipur and India had to offer while Jean remained stuck, unable and unwilling to adapt and see beyond her myopic British molded vision.

Although the film is accused of being predictable, I was so caught up with the brilliance of the cast and the beauty of the place that it didn’t matter. Over and over I said both silently and audibly “That’s where I want to be! That’s where I want to retire”.

The delight for me was personal. Scenes of multicolored trucks and buses, crowds in the streets, beautiful shalwar, chemise and saris, motorized rickshaws and crowded bazaars all took me back to my childhood in Pakistan, where the streets of Karachi, Lahore and Rawalpindi look similar.

For those who have spent time in the subcontinent, be prepared to be less than satisfied with your current circumstances when you leave the theatre, but also be ready to laugh, smile and be thoroughly enchanted by the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the Elderly and the Beautiful.

As for us? We left the movie knowing with certainty that, should the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel be real, this was the place we wanted to retire.

Memorable Quotes: 

Sonny Kapoor: “I have a dream Mummy. To create a home for the elderly, so wonderful that they will simply refuse to die.”

“Everything will be all right in the end. So if it is not all right, then it is not yet the end.”

Muriel: “No thank you! If I can’t pronounce it, I don’t want to eat it!”

“Like its characters, we want to hold on to the dream that all will come out right in the end if we only check into the right address.” Christian Science Monitor Movie Review

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