February 12, 2016

This Week’s Popcorn: ‘Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’

First Class Accommodations

By Michael S. Goldberger

Special to the Observer


Enjoying the profound and humorous insights about one’s golden years so charmingly assayed by John Madden’s “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” it occurred that this film should be mandatory viewing for anyone with a civic sense. While seniors will enjoy the concurrence of truths they’ve learned, young folks should benefit most from its wisdom.

Apparently, none of the characters etched here by a fine ensemble of grade A British thespians saw that dooming sign in the grocery stores, barber shops and auto garages of their youth that read, “We grow old too soon and smart too late.” For in 21st Century England, approaching the precipice of their last act, they are all painfully unprepared.

For most it’s money. In a comical, expository scene, being shown a humdrum example of over 55 housing mediocrity, Penelope Wilton’s Jean Ainslie exclaims, “Thirty years in the Civil Service and this is what we can afford?” For others it’s a dream unfulfilled, an inability to adjust, or, as in Grahame Dashwood’s case, a past affair never reconciled.

Had Arthur Hailey added to his “Airport” and “Hotel” a work he might have called “Active Adult Community,” odds are it’d mirror what novelist Deborah Moggach so affably achieved in “These Foolish Things,” here transposed to the screen by Ol Parker as “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.” A bunch of people share a bunch of problems.

Mad as hell and not willing to take it anymore, to paraphrase Peter Finch’s newscaster Howard Beale in “Network” (1976), our splendid dramatis personae decide to make some destiny modifications. Having all learned about the title residence in India through colorfully descriptive, exalting brochures, it’s there they will outsource their retirement.

Although widow Evelyn Greenslade, sharply portrayed by Judi Dench, hasn’t quite resorted to eating cat food, yet, her dear departed, financially irresponsible spouse has left her little choice. The same situation pretty much applies to the aforementioned public servant and her Casper Milquetoast of a spouse, Douglas, caringly played by Bill Nighy.

Continuing down the line, the great Maggie Smith’s Muriel Donnelly has a bad hip and a broken heart after being told by the family whose children she raised and accounts she kept in order for over thirty years that her services would no longer be needed. Putting her rabid xenophobia aside for the moment, the hip replacement is a real steal in India.

And then for some, the decision to export one’s future has, in varying degree, a sexual connotation. Pretty Marge Hardcastle (Celia Imrie), like Tennessee Williams’s Blanche Dubois, has always relied on the kindness of strangers to ensure her sense of wellbeing. Whereas Ronald Pickup’s wily Norman Cousins is just an old rake on the make.

Running counterpoint to these sagas of the silver-haired set is the story of their ambitious host, Sonny, the youngest of several Indian brothers, all of whom have achieved some sort of success. Played by Dev Patel, the perennial optimist hopes to make his fortune and so impress his mom that she accedes to his love of the lesser caste Sunaina (Tena Desae).

But it won’t be easy. Sonny somewhat overstated the beauteous attributes of the Marigold, which is neither best nor exotic in the conventional sense of those adjectives. Like that first house the realtor showed you, just to set you up for the realities of the market, this is a fixer-upper extraordinaire. Insofar as Mom, well, she’s Babbitt in a sari.

Of course the rambling hotel, replete with tons of great old columns, alcoves, nooks and rooms bereft of doors is an architectural metaphor, its blighted state begging to rise up from the ashes and realize its potential glory. Thus it follows that, like Dorothy’s pals in “The Wizard of Oz” (1939), each sojourner hopes to find what’s lacking in his or her life.

Reminded of the adage, “There, but for the grace of G-d, go I,” our souls demand we root for them, both as fictitious characters and because of the real world shame they represent. You want to wave their plight under the haughty noses of Social Darwinists the way the Ghost of Christmas Present revealed to Scrooge the indigent tots under his robe.

It is muckraking in its politest, most savvy form, a synergy of Western and Eastern sentiment woven into a compelling cry for redress. Although the faucets leak, the phones don’t work and the food is a bit spicier than you’re used to, just chalk it up as part of the overall charm that makes “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” a four-star film destination.

“The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” rated PG-13, is a Fox Searchlight Pictures release directed by John Madden and stars Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson and Dev Patel. Running time: 124 minutes


PHOTOS: Justin McQuiston’s Art

Williston resident Justin McQuiston had his artwork selected for a national exhibit featuring Artwork from Children of All Abilities in Washington DC. He was one of 10 students nationally  who will attend the opening reception.

PHOTOS: WCS Circus Dollars

Courtesy photos by Luca Sticks

The WCS Leave Us Clean Air (LUCA) club presented an educational themed circus last week, as part of the Vermont 8 out of 10 campaign.

The idea of the campaign is to correct misperceptions.  Most kids, in fact 8 out of 10 teens in Vermont, do not smoke.  At WCS, according to the 2011 YRBS survey, 9.3 out of 10 6-8th graders have never smoked a cigarette.  In order to participate in the bubble, spin art, juggling, dish spin and face painting booths, student were asked to sign a pledge to be tobacco and substance free.

PHOTOS: Swarm Party

Observer photo by Stephanie Choate

Allen Brook School students do ‘the honeybee’ on June 7 at a school-wide celebration, with Lake Monster’s mascot Champ. The dance was part of the Swarm Party, celebrating the wrap-up of a yearlong bee-themed initiative to encourage positive behavior—being safe, kind and responsible. Students earned black and yellow pompoms to add to ‘the beehive’ when they demonstrated positive behavior.

PHOTOS: CVU concert

Observer photos by Steve Mease

CVU students perform at the End of Year Concert. Seniors each received the traditional red rose in recognition of their participation in music department programs.


Observer photos by Alec Jacobson

Williston Central School students participate in Fun Day on June 8.

PHOTOS: Munt Memorial

Observer photo by Luke Baynes

At a June 10 ceremony at Williston Central School, Margaret Munt was remembered as many things: a devoted wife and mother; a slow eater and tea drinker; a fearless public speaker; a willing (at times too willing) giver of advice; a best friend.

More than anything, Margaret Munt was remembered as a great teacher and mentor of Williston youth for the past 28 years.

PHOTOS: CVU baseball state champs

Observer photos by Shane Bufano

The CVU baseball team defeated BFA St. Albans 5-0 on Saturday, winning the second championship in the school’s history.

Police Notes

Grand larceny

Vermont State Police are investigating the theft of a Snap-on mechanics tool box, tools and an electric-powered toy bike from a residence in Monkton on May 28. The victim, a Williston resident, was storing the items in a garage at the location. The estimated value of the stolen items is approximately $12,000 for the tool box and $400 for the toy bike. Anyone with information is asked to contact VSP New Haven Trooper Andrew Leise at 1-802-388-4919.

Driving under the influence

Percy Bannerman, 21, of Essex Junction was cited on a charge of driving under the influence on June 10, according to police reports. His blood alcohol concentration was .082, the report notes.

Multiple charges

Kari L. Pariseau, 27, of Richford was cited arrested on a warrant for failure to appear at jury draw in a driving with a suspended license case, according to police reports. She was also cited for driving with a suspended license-criminal, the report notes. She was lodged at Chittenden County Correctional Center for lack of $250 bail.


Eric Johnson, Jr., 37, of St. George was cited on two counts of retail theft from Wal-Mart on June 6, according to police reports. He was arrested after police received numerous tips from the public after video was shown on news stations of Johnson pushing a TV and computer out of Wal-Mart on June 5, according to the report. He was also cited with violation of conditions of release, the report notes. He was cited to appear in court on July 2.

Driving with suspended license

  •   Mary Marcelino, 26, of Burlington was cited on a charge of driving with a suspended license on May 22, according to police reports. She was cited to appear in court.
  •  Matthew Billings, 23, of Essex was cited on a charge of driving with a suspended license on May 22, according to police reports. He was cited to appear in court on July 2.
  •  Andria Benjamin, 29, of Eden was cited on a charge of driving with a suspended license on May 23, according to police reports. She was cited to appear in court.
  •  Joseph Cota, 23, of St. Albans was cited on a charge of driving with a suspended license on May 24, according to police reports. He was cited to appear in court.
  •  Adam J. Greene, 21, of Alburg was cited on a charge of driving with a suspended license on May 24, according to police reports. About an hour later, police again stopped Greene and cited him with driving with a suspended license-criminal, according to the report. He was cited to appear in court.
  •  Katrina Fuller, 35, of Charlotte was cited on a charge of driving with a suspended license on May 27, according to police reports. She was cited to appear in court.
  •  David C. Smith, 50, of Johnson was cited on a charge of driving with a suspended license-criminal on June 7, according to police reports. He was cited to appear in court.
  •  Danny A. Duprey, 29, of Essex Junction was cited on a charge of driving with a suspended license on June 8, according to police reports. He was cited to appear in court.
  •  Nicholas S. LaClair, 23, of South Burlington was cited on a charge of driving with a suspended license-criminal on June 9, according to police reports. He was cited to appear in court.

Memorial weekend enforcement results

During the weekend of May 25 – 28, Vermont State Police conducted high-visibility enforcement in support of Operation C.A.R.E. (Combined Accident Reduction Effort). The results of the effort included:

  • Alcohol-related crashes – 7
  • Collisions – 56
  • DUI arrests – 21
  • Speeding citations – 716
  • Seat belt citations – 40

Police notes are written based on information provided by the Williston Police Department and the Vermont State Police. Please note that all parties are considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

Everyday Gourmet: The burrata bash

Am I late to the party? From San Francisco to San Diego this spring, I noticed every menu featured a strawberry salad with “burrata.” Huh? Then, I ordered it: burrata is like a savory scoop of ice cream that pairs beautifully with just about every texture and flavor.

Basically, we’re talking cheese heaven. In appearance, burrata resembles a small ball of cow’s milk mozzarella with a topknot. But there’s a surprise inside: a soft, lava-like center that oozes with creamy flavor once the cheese has been sliced. Like a soft-boiled egg, it luxuriously coats delectable companions such as fresh greens, strawberries, blackberries, pistachios, smoked almonds and freshly picked herbs.

Because of its short shelf life, burrata (pronounced boor-RAH-tah) has only recently traveled beyond Italy for international consumption. Lucky for Vermonters, we have our own local supply—the head of Bennington’s Maplebrook Farm burrata team is Domenico Marchitelli, a native of Puglia, the Italian region where burrata originated. Marchitelli has now trained a team at Maplebrook Farm, and cases of their hand crafted burrata leave the plant minutes after creation. You’ll find it everywhere, along with a more commercially produced burrata that has been recently spotted at Costco.


Burrata Salad

I love to toss fresh arugula in a bit of olive oil and then place any variety of fruit, nuts, and burrata over the glistening bed. Then, I squirt the fruit and burrata with a shot of sherry vinegar glaze. Sherry vinegar glaze is basically sherry vinegar boiled down into syrup that is both sweet and tart. It’s a terrific new product, compliments of the Columela brand, and can be found at Healthy Living.

Another fun hors d’oeuvre is crostini slices layered with a bit of burrata, a folded slice of prosciutto and some strawberry jam, all topped with a half of a small fresh strawberry placed cut-side down. These beautiful dishes are summer on a platter: easy, breezy, boffo.

Burrata, the addictive, super-sexy mozzarella, is sure to make an appearance at many a summer bash—it’s the celebrity cheese of the season.


Kim Dannies is a graduate of La Varenne Cooking School in France.  She lives in Williston with her husband, Jeff; they have three twenty-something daughters who come and go. For archived Everyday Gourmet columns go to kimdannies.com.