“The Best ExoticMarigold Hotel”
2011, Rated PG-13
2 hours, 4 minutes
Directed by John Madden
Some of today’s best English actors star in a film that’s a mix of comedy, pathos and social commentary. When a disparate group of elderly Brits are ready for retirement and find themselves short of funds to enjoy the lifestyle they would like in England, an ad for the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel entices them to Jaipur, India.
Of course, the pictures on the Internrt were of the resort in better days and it’s not quite the “best” anymore, but they do find their new life exotic; however, some enjoy that less than others.
Maggie Smith’s Muriel is there to get a hip replacement at a cheaper price than in London. Judi Dench is a widow who lived for her husband and sees her new life in India as an adventure, getting her first job helping bridge the cultural gap at a call center. Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilton are a couple at odds because she blames him for the loss of their retirement funds.
Ronald Pickup considers himself a bit of a lothario. Tom Wilkinson is a retired judge who lived in India as a young man and has returned to make an old wrong right. And, Celia Imrie is a single woman hoping to find love again – or at least a wealthy new husband.
Dev Patel (“Slumdog Millionaire”) is Sonny Kapoor, the proprietor of the hotel. He’s a young man with dreams, a girlfriend his mother disapproves of, and a desire to prove himself to his mother and two successful brothers.
In sunny, brightly colored, noisy Jaipur, the seven transplants find a chance to reinvent themselves away from colleagues and family who see them as over the hill.
I love that the British aren’t afraid to make movies about aging that are filled with mostly oldsters. (One of my favorite English comedies is “Waiting for God,” which still airs on PBS channels). Ultimately, it’s the stellar ensemble cast that makes the film such a joy to watch.
For your DVDinner, enjoy an Indian dish. This chicken is fairly mild, but can be made more or less spicy by adjusting the amount (and type) of chili powder.
Serves 6 to 8
6 to 8 chicken pieces (I like thighs)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 large onion, diced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1-inch piece of ginger root, grated
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
3 teaspoons ground garam masala
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground chili powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 bay leaf
2 large Roma tomatoes, diced
3 cups vegetables, your choice (mushrooms, peas, cauliflower florets, green beans, sliced kohlrabi and/or sliced carrots are good)
1 cup chicken stock, plus more to thin the curry (if needed)
In a large Dutch oven with a tight fitting lid, heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of the oil over medium-high heat and add cumin seeds. Once they begin to pop, add the diced onions and sauté until it becomes translucent.
Add the garlic and ginger and stir. Add all the ground spices and bay leaf. Stir. The mixture will get dry and begin to stick to the bottom of the pan (about three minutes). Remove mixture to a bowl; set aside.
Add remaining 1/2 tablespoon oil to the pan and add the chicken. Cook on medium-high heat for 5 to 6 minutes, until the chicken has fully browned. Add the spice/onion mixture back to the pan. Add the tomatoes. Add 1 cup of chicken stock and stir well.
Bring the mixture to a boil. Put the lid on the pot, turn the heat to medium-low and simmer for 30 minutes. While it simmers, prep the vegetables.
Add the vegetables and stir well and cook 1 hour more, stirring after 30 minutes. Add additional chicken stock if the curry has become too thick. Garnish with freshly chopped cilantro and serve over basmati rice.
Note: Last time, I used sliced mushrooms, fresh green beans, carrots and kohlrabi, which was a nice mix. Kohlrabi is at the winter farmers’ markets in the area.
You also can buy naan, a soft Indian bread, in most local markets. It’s easily heated in the oven while the chicken is cooking and is a delicious way to sop up the sauce.
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