The Second Best Exotic Marigold Assisted Living Facility

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. A film by John Madden.

We seem to have entered the age of Oldster Movies, and if Maggie Smith can just hang on this could go on for quite some time. We’ve had the First Exotic Marigold Hotel, the Second, and according to the trailers there’s an upcoming Maggie Smith movie where she plays a grouchy old woman (does she ever play another kind?) who lives in a van. For fifteen years! Sounds like a howler. (Has anybody considered “The Past-Her-Prime of Miss Jean Brodie”?)

It may be, of course, that we’ve always lived in the age of Oldster Movies but now that I’m an oldster I’m taking notice. Maybe I even resent it (do I sound resentful?). All I know is that it’s a Box Office Bonanza; at the normally empty matinee at the Fine Arts Theater in Asheville, all you have to do is show an Oldster Movie and people skip the afternoon nap and stagger in from all over the place. They make loud comments, hold a seat for somebody who doesn’t show up (maybe he died), have a glass of Chianti with their popcorn (yes, we have booze at the movies; that’s how you know it’s the Fine Arts Theater) then conk out altogether, head back over the seat, snoring loudly. Their cell phone rings and they jump like it’s a fire alarm (how do you turn this thing off?). They might as well install a revolving door in the back, so many people go to the bathroom. The credits start to run and there’s a mad rush, if you call people slowly standing and seeing if they can take a step a mad rush. But there are only a couple of urinals in the men’s room, and the old boys have to stand at them for quite some time.

I’m making fun of these things but I’m talking about myself, as I hope you understand. Mon semblable, mon frere.

It’s not all that difficult to make an Oldsters Movie. You get various old actors who haven’t had a good part in years to play clichés of old people. The grouchy old eccentric gal (Maggie’s got that covered). The newly widowed woman who is looking for meaning in her life and, who knows, maybe a little romance, if there is such a thing in the Twilight Years. The horny old fart. The still attractive woman who thinks she’s a little younger than she actually is and still sleeps around. The grouchy divorcee who is still dumping on her poor beleaguered husband. The beleaguered husband himself, who’s been whacked so many times that he’s too shy to ask another woman out (the newly widowed woman is a candidate. They eye each other shyly, as if they’ve got years to decide).

Throw these oldsters into a place where they’re going to be bewildered, but they might have a (safe) adventure. (How about India?) Give them some Important Life Lessons to impart to the younger crowd, if any younger people ever see the thing. Shake it all up, throw in a few Viagra jokes, and Voila! You’ve got an oldster movie.

The sequel had to include some new love interest, so, of all people, Richard Gere shows up. When he first appeared I was half expecting him to say, “Anybody seen the Dalai Lama? He’s around here somewhere.” As it turns out, he’s playing the sensitive older dude who’s just gotten divorced and is trying to find himself. He plays it rather well, actually. But as long as we’re making sequels, why don’t we get him together with Julia Roberts again, and kill two birds with one stone, in a movie entitled, “Still Remarkably Attractive Woman,” or “Eat, Drink, (and Pay Me For) Love.”

There’s nothing harmful in all this. The whole key is to give every oldster in the audience someone they can identify with or lust after, and if you manage to do that, they’ll keep coming back, even if they have to bring a walker. If the movie ends—as this one does—with a large dance ensemble, you can keep your eyes on the young people up front and try not to notice the geriatric set in back. And if it seems predictable that they’ve all got to ride off into the Indian sunsets paired up on motor scooters, what the hell, you didn’t think you were going to see something original, did you? You bought the ticket, even if it was a senior discount.

My wife was a little angry with the pat ending, but she’s the one who suggested we go (didn’t she? That’s how I remember it). I pointed out to her that this was her first senior discount (she recently had a birthday) and she should be happy with that, if nothing else. As my mother said ten years ago when I told her my wife had just turned fifty, “You always did like the younger women.”