Lina Lamont

"What do you think I am, dumb or something?"

Archive for the tag “Dev Patel”

Lion

This review first appeared in the Sunday Star-Times, 15th January 2017

4.5 stars, Rated PG, 118 mins

Readers who are familiar with the flow of the cinematic seasons will be rubbing their hands with glee as we enter a period traditionally dominated by 4 and 5-star reviews for films that will be turning up on Awards’ shortlists in January and February. (We call it “Oscar season”, but of course the Golden Globes and BAFTAs also make their judgements at this time of year.)

One strong contender is Lion, about an adopted Indian boy who leaves Australia to search for his long-lost family 25 years later. A well-acted true story which tugs at the heartstrings and co-stars Nicole Kidman, it’s very likely Oscar-bait, but that’s not without good cause.

The incredibly moving story sets off at pace, dousing us with an enchanting soundtrack and spectacular photography as we follow the doe-eyed Saroo (the first acting role for tiny Sunny Pawar, who is absolutely captivating) as he unintentionally boards a passengerless train and is whisked away far from his mother and brother, to bustling Calcutta. Unable to establish where he has come from, Saroo is shuttled from one inadequate situation to the next, encountering shady characters both in and outside the welfare system. It’s an engrossing first act, thanks to the film’s deeply authentic use of local places and people and the desperate storyline which finds relief only when Saroo is adopted by an Australian couple (played with compassion and considerable restraint by Kidman and David Wenham) and takes up a new life thousands of miles from home.

lion

25 years later, older Saroo (now played by Best Exotic Marigold’s Dev Patel) is living an Aussie life devoid of anything which relates to his cultural heritage, when he is prompted to try to retrace his 5-year old steps. Using Google Earth and a fallible memory, his ensuing quest occasionally loses narrative momentum, but since Lion already stole our heart in Act One, we are nonetheless gripped.

The whole thing may sound horrendously saccharine, but Australian director Garth Davis’ first feature is a stunning combination of smart writing (based on the real Saroo’s memoir), perfectly-pitched performances and brilliant use of his locations. While Pawar is a revelation, Kidman is also to be applauded for conveying the nuanced emotions of an adoptive mum while respecting her position as a supporting character in someone else’s film. Even so, she has moments which break your heart. The charismatic Patel does a fine Aussie accent, and Divian Ladwa (a little-known Jack of many filmmaking trades) is excellent as the wayward brother.

Lion is the sort of film you could easily go into feeling cynical, but every aspect of its production, from heart wrenching story to exotic spectacle, makes it a worthy adversary to its fellow nominees.

 

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

In the opening scene of this long-awaited sequel to one of the most popular “grey dollar” movies of all time, a Californian valet cheerily compliments Mrs Donnelly (Maggie Smith)’s South London accent and asks “Are you from Australia??” From that moment, I was sold.

It’s four years (in real time) since the pantheon of British acting descended upon Jaipur to earn their retirement money and produce the effervescent smash-hit that was The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Audiences flocked to see Smith (playing delightfully against Dowager Grantham type, though her turn as “Ray Winstone’s mum” is sometimes a little hard to believe), Dame Judi Dench, Penelope Wilton, Bill Nighy and Tom Wilkinson age gracefully and wittily, while Dev Patel (then a newly established star thanks to Slumdog Millionaire) pizzazzed across the screen as their over-eager young Indian hotelier.

Years later, the crew are still living at the Marigold (a daily roll-call is taken to ensure no one has “checked out” during the night) and Sonny is set to marry his beloved. However, wedding planning is overshadowed by his efforts to secure a new, improved site for the titular hotel – a place where Mrs Donnelly and her ilk can live happily until “the ultimate checkout” to the hotel in the sky. Naturally, the course of true entrepreneurship does not run smooth, and while new relationships burgeon in the old folks’ home, others are put to the test.

Patel is, as ever, over-the-top and yet completely wonderful, his energy and whipsmart delivery of lines and facial expressions a terrific foil to the enjoyably vinegar-faced Smith. The seniors have now become locals in Jaipur and interact delightfully with the Indian cast (one man’s patronising will be another’s cute), and new guest Richard Gere.

As usual, the setting is a character in itself, the vibrant colours, soundtrack and the city’s inherent energy the perfect backdrop for an assortment of rather juicy and not entirely frivolous subplots. With solid, if predictable, performances all round, and a funny, good-natured script, The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel ranks higher than its predecessor.

Post Navigation