Judge Katie Herrell is practicing her singing for a Bollywood career.
Her unexpected adventure is about to begin.
Full disclosure: I am not schooled in Bollywood. Marigold is a Bollywood film, shot by an American director with an American actress playing the female lead. So while I can assess the acting, cinematography, soundtrack, and so on as I would for any film, I can not assess it compared to other Bollywood films and admittedly that's how this film should be reviewed.
Facts of the Case
Marigold (Ali Larter, Heroes) is an American B-actress who has a serious ego and attitude problem. She travels to India to film Kama Sutra II (or III; it doesn't matter and that's the point) only to discover upon her arrival that the movie has been disbanded. She swiftly lands a role in a Bollywood film, and what follows is a whole lot of color, dancing, and romance.
Marigold starts out like a bad B-movie, much like the ones its lead character is used to performing in. Larter storms into an airport flaunting her model looks and proceeds to piss and moan on everyone around her. It seems like any number of roles that Larter might have played in her career, and it is unflattering and un-nuanced: she's just a…you know.
But as soon as the plane steps down in India, the dynamics of the film thankfully change. We meet Jaanvi (Nandana Sen), a beautiful Indian woman with a sharp wit who is a study of contrasts to Marigold. Sen is an understated star in this over-the-top film. It is Jaanvi who takes Marigold to her first Bollywood set, and a film setting that was airports and cab cars and low-budget movie offices becomes a hopping stage atmosphere located outside against a beautiful Indian backdrop. The yellows and pinks and oranges of the stage costumes are beautiful and vibrant, and the on-stage dancing that defines Bollywood films is a highly symmetrical, syncopated feat that makes American movie musicals seem like playroom practice sessions.
At the Bollywood set, the other lead of the movie is introduced: big-time Indian star Salman Khan plays Prem Rajput, a dancer and choreographer. If Marigold overdoes hysterics, Rajput is complete calm. The contrast in the two characters is at first stark but, as they begin a contentious romantic relationship, some of Rajput's calm rubs off on Marigold and vice versa.
This is a movie of transitions and evolution, and that is most true in regards to Marigold, who evolves from a ranting, unhappy, self-absorbed ingrate into a self-effacing, pleasant, generous soul thanks to her Indian experience. The positive transition of Marigold also reflects positively on Larter's own performance as she seems more comfortable playing a positive role than a negative one.
The second half of the movie takes place at Rajput's parents' estate, where they all gather for a wedding. It is unclear, but Rajput is apparently a prince of some sorts, and his decision to become a dancer is not received well by his family. While the family dynamics are not fully explained, the beautiful scenery of the Rajput estate is used to its fullest on screen. Wide, wide angles are used, not only to capture the amazing dance scenes of the earlier portion of the film, but to capture the oasis where the Rajput family presides. Stark whites against vibrant greens dominate the exterior of the family household, another instance of the film's excellent use of color.
Toward its end, the film reverts to a bit of American-style serendipity when Marigold's American boyfriend suddenly finds himself in the Rajput household. For a movie that consciously pokes fun at American B-level films (Marigold is famous for her acting in crappy sounding sequels), there is also quite a bit of that B-levelness in Marigold. The movie definitely took inspiration and much of its storyline from Bollywood, but there is a firmly Hollywood feel.
In the behind-the-scenes featurette, "The Making of Marigold," Larter details the difference in preparation styles between her and Khan. While Khan didn't want to rehearse or do any preparation, Larter was trained to practice, practice, practice. Khan's performance doesn't seem to have suffered as a result of his prep style, but the interactions between Larter and Khan could have benefited from a bit of polish. This personal behind-the-scenes piece spends considerable time detailing director Willard Carroll's motivation for the movie. His contagious love for Bollywood films and India rubbed off on me and made me appreciate his film more so than when I watched it.
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Unfortunately for a movie about transitions, the second half of the film uses CGI transition elements to wipe from scene to scene. Distracting graphics fly across the scene and their abrupt introduction in the second half of the film make them all the more jarring.
Recently, pop singer Jessica Simpson has tried to cross over into country music. While Simpson undeniably (in my opinion, of course) has a beautiful voice, she also doesn't really have the TWANG. A similar comparison can be applied to Marigold: the movie has good bones, but it doesn't quite make the jump from Hollywood to Bollywood.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Echo Bridge Home Entertainment
• "The Making of Marigold"
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