Wrinkles in “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”

We decided to see the movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel after watching its preview about a month ago.

I had not read any reviews or blogs about the movie and watching it last night was quite enjoyable.  However, this isn’t a critique or a recommendation about a lovely movie. This is about me being astonished!

You have to realize that I live in The Land of the Shallow, The Land of Botox, The Land of Glamor and the place where you probably have more plastic surgeons than teachers.

But I digress … I was talking about being astonished.

Two of the greatest actresses in the world – pillars of British cinema, had meaty roles (not an easy feat if you are female actor over 40), and they absolutely looked their age or even older. Both Judi Dench and Maggie Smith are 77 years old, and it seemed like a knife had not touched their faces.

Judi Dench at the BAFTAs at the Royal Opera Ho...

Judi Dench

And they looked old.

Wrinkle and more wrinkles adorned their faces, and their skin was sagging all over the screen. Worse, it doesn’t look like they work out at all. The horror.

So once I got over my sick curiosity about their unstretched skin, I shifted to the place I always go to:

Why? And how come?

Don’t they have agents who encourage them to “freshen up”? Don’t they have friends who tell them “you look rather tired, my dear”. What’s wrong with them?

How come they age gracefully and wrinkly, and the rest of us don’t? How come I cannot think of any American actress who allows herself to age without “improvement”? How come I have friends, and not just one, who would rather die than leave the house without makeup.  And, why do I dye my hair – a question my husband frequently asks.

I know that we are the crazy ones. I know that we bought into this “youthful image” syndrome, and the biggest compliment you can give someone is to tell them they look younger than their age.

Apparently neither Judi nor Maggie care about it.

English: Dame Maggie Smith in Kensington Garde...

And yet they were bigger than life, charismatic and regal. And they were beautiful.

Wrinkles and all.

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About rachel bar

Psychotherapist and supervisor.
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40 Responses to Wrinkles in “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”

  1. Stephanie Kirschner says:

    We just came home from a evening with old friends. One of them doesn’t remotely resemble herself anymore. It’s quite unnerving. It lead to a discussion between my husband and I on the way home – to do the surgery and look forever young or to grow old gracefully and have the experience of knowing what you look like in old age. I want to grow old gracefully. Like I always told my children – you have to be brave to be different. In the end I’ll probably be mistaken for all of my friends mother.

  2. mim collins says:

    Rachel…I so agree….they are strikingly beautiful woman…I adore them both….what you said is so right on!!! Mim

  3. rachel bar says:

    Maybe Stephanie. But deep down your friends will admire you!

  4. Marie-Michelle says:

    By some unusual set of circumstances, I saw the movie 4 times in a week! first time with my husband and the other three times with 4 close friends. Every viewing brought up different topics with the different friends, insightful conversations with all. My 2 European friends did not mention the wrinkles, nor the aging, the Californians did as it was quite foreign for them to see a woman age the “natural way”, wrinkles, extra fat and all without trying to stop time. All agreed the characters were outstanding in their individuality and depth. This lead to tremendous conversations about the value given to aging people in different countries and cultures, their current and past relationships and the younger Indian couple’s relationship with its own constrictive rules. Third time was still a charm but by the fourth I could quote all the characters. Everything will be fine in the end and if it’s not, it is not yet the end…. A cast of fabulous actors, portraying men and women with their own demons to fight at the end of their lives.

  5. Barbara Cooper says:

    In thinking of American actress who didn’t go under the knife, Betty White comes to mind. She’s 90 and working more than most 20 year olds. She looks good, though. I think that is the answer to your question. If you look in the mirror and like what you see, you don’t dye your hair and you don’t wear make up. I think it has to do with how you feel about yourself to begin with. My Mother in Law used to say when she looks in a mirror, she wonders who the old lady looking back at her is. She used to say, she feels no different on the inside than she did when she was 20. So why doesn’t the appearance on the outside reflect how you feel on the inside? People don’t want to look old, not just for vanity’s sake, but because if you look old, then surely you won’t be around much longer. It’s about mortality as much or more than vanity. If I look young, then I must be young!
    I don’t see myself aging too much. (of course, that could just be my eyesight going!) However, when I get down on the floor to play with my dogs, it ain’t so easy getting up anymore. I’m feeling like I should exercise to limber up the old muscles and bones, but I’ll just sit a minute till the feeling passes.
    As for Dame Judi Dench and Maggie Smith, yes, they are lovely. And they are working just precisely because they are showing their age. With so few actresses willing to age publicly albeit gracefully, the playing field is wide open for them. Yet ironically, you watched the movie and came home to write a blog about how old they looked.
    Nuff said.

    • rachel bar says:

      Dear Barb, you must have overlooked the statement about how good they looked with those wrinkles. The reason I decided to write is because I admire people who are braver than I am.

      • Barbara Cooper says:

        No, I did not overlook that statement. I was merely pointing out that the wrinkles were up for discussion at all. I think you missed my point. You didn’t come out from that movie and say, “Wow, the leading ladies were so beautiful!” You said they looked beautiful even though they had wrinkles. You were the one who made their wrinkles a topic for discussion. That is no different than saying someone looked great despite being fat. We are all guilty of using the same standards for beauty in others, and consequently, ourselves by comparison. We all want to look our best- how we looked when we were young, and aging takes that away from us- some slower than others. The statement, “Youth is wasted on the young” in my mind just means we didn’t appreciate what we had when we had it because we foolishly thought we always would have it. Bravery has nothing to do with it- acceptance does. I don’t know whether Dame Judi Dench or Maggie Smith have husbands or lovers, but I bet if they do they are told frequently how beautiful they are or maybe being beautiful was just never important to them at all. Famous people become our standard for aging. So and so is my age, and look how great or bad she looks! We want them to look great without us being able to spot “work done” because then maybe we look as good too. And to borrow a phrase from the Army, “we all want to be the best that we can be”. Where we differ is in how much we are willing to work for it.

    • rachel bar says:

      Just read that Betty White had her eyes done!

  6. Rob says:

    Actresses looking like real people! shock, horror, whatever next?
    What I find depressing is that this is the exception rather than the norm.
    I enjoyed the film too, wrinkles and all.

    • rachel bar says:

      I think that the British are less naive, and they know that eventually all the plastic surgeries are just not going to hide reality.

      • Rob says:

        My statistical background forces me to argue with you. I doubt the British are any more or less naive. We have our fair share of idiots, believe me.

      • rachel bar says:

        Unfortunately, I don’t have a statistical background, so I’m not in a position to prove that we have more idiots. I’m willing to bet though that there are more facelifts in California than in all GB. Alas, I can’t prove that either:)

      • Rob says:

        OK, you may be right. My wife Maeve likes to interrupt our evening’s viewing by shouting “she’s had work!” at the screen. Why Maeve should be interested, I’m not sure. I’m trying to pursuade her that I love her laughter lines.

  7. Sue Cox says:

    We need more of this information and opinion brought to women’s attention, more public discourse about how badly we’re taught to feel about ourselves and the way we look. Whether we are old or young, everything around us in this culture says Youth & Beauty are the only way. While I’m vain enough to be influenced by this, there’s an inner voice, a more soulful self, that’s screaming, “NO!!!” She wants her hair gray, not dyed brown anymore. She wants to be ok with the extra weight she’s carrying since menopause. She wants to be real and comfortable in her wrinkling skin and make a statement for herself and the women in her circle that there is beauty and value to a woman in every stage of life. (That other inner voice just yelled, “Bullshit!,” as I wrote that.) It’s an ongoing battle, for sure.

    It also needs to be said out loud that Youth & Beauty = Sexuality/Desirability and that’s the root of the issue. If I’m honest, it’s much easier to say I’m trying to get comfortable with my “aging” than it is to go deeper and admit that, because of my aging, I’m no longer an object of desire. I believe that’s the deeper pain, the more difficult adjustment to make for a lot of us.

  8. Carol Bronow says:

    Well, ladies and gentleman, I was invited to see that particular movies last week by several of my “older” female neighbors – all single (divorced, widowed or never married.) Needless to say we took up almost a whole row in the small art theater here in Westlake Village. I’ve been a little slow accepting the “facts of growing older,” But, watching the people file into the theater to see the movie, I had to admit that I was probably one of the younger people there. Everyone around me appeared to be “old.” Mostly women in groups of three or four, but occasionally a couple or two wobbled down the isle, with cane in hand, helping each other to get seated. To me it was a beautiful sight, we were all sitting there waiting to see a movie that honored our generation. No action figures up on the screen, no loud uncomfortable music and yet there was sexual tension and sexual attraction, being acted out by these wonderful old English actors. Several of those actors have been favorites of mine for many years, way back when they were much younger. I’ve always loved English movies and television specials based on English themes. I realized that I have grown up with them and I was so comfortable in their company. The thought that each of them had been forced by their life circumstances to move to a foreign country to spend the rest of their lives living in a rather beat-up hotel didn’t even matter. They were alive and they did what a lot of people would never have done, they managed to become friends, they counted on each other for support. They fell in and out of love and all, but one, adjusted to their new circumstances, and enjoyed this opportunity to have a wonderful adventure. And in the process created a movie that I hope much younger people will take time to enjoy too. I realize I’ve gone off topic here, but my point is that each of us faces getting older in our own way. And, yes, our bodies age much faster then our minds, which seem to always feel much younger than our age.
    (Please note my new email address.)

    • rachel bar says:

      Carol, it seemed like the movie really spoke to you. At the same time I could not escape the realization that those people reached a stage in their lives where their children did not take care of them AND had to move to another country in order to survive…However, everything will be OK at the end, and it it’s not OK, then it’s not the end:)

  9. Martha Carr says:

    Rachel – We LOVED the movie too and it never even occurred to me that Maggie Smith and Judi Dench should look any differently. To me, their faces are part of what gives them their unique and admirable charm. Plus they have each aged in a beautiful way. My father always used to say that those who accept their aging stay young while those that fight it look stressed and old. He also said he felt like he was still 40 when he was 70. I am not sure I could ever bring myself to have plastic surgery but I certainly feel a distinct jealousy when my friends and colleagues announce they are about to have a lift. These days the work looks so much more natural and less “plastic”. I think the trick is to have it before you really need it!

  10. Amy Ebert says:

    I love this one, Rachel! I think Dames Judi Dench & Maggie Smith are beautiful & inspiring on many levels that go way beyond their looks (although I think they’re very physically striking too). I tend to find to find people with intelligence, wit, & self-deprecating humor very sexy, and that package usually comes in older adults who have reached a point where they don’t take themselves quite as seriously anymore. For example, I find Bill Nighy incredibly attractive. Such a sexy ham! I find the U.S. obsession with youthful beauty incredibly stupid although I understand the evolutionary hard-wiring behind it. I’d like to see us evolve and mature to a point where we can see human beauty comes in many different forms…young and old.

  11. Maddy Zimring says:

    Most everything has been said already, and very well I think. Here is my two cents worth. Cosmetic surgery is just another form of denial, and we know that sometimes denial is good and sometimes it isn’t – depending on the degree and the circumstances ( and the plastic surgeon! ) As far as the wonderful actresses in the film go – If I could have a career like that while ageing gracefully I might consider it!

    • rachel bar says:

      Of course the question is what came first the chicken or the egg? Do they enjoy this type of career because they allowed themselves to age gracefully? Or, were they so outstandingly good that there was no expectation of physical perfection?

  12. Oh, I so love this blog…. I have always thought of wrinkles and lines as “earned.” I love to look at people’s lines–they tell me about their lives. For example, seeing deeply etched smile lines makes me smile as I imagine all the laughter they have experienced. Seriously–when you go to become friends with someone, do you initially trust someone without bumps, lines, wrinkles, or imperfections? When I think of the most captivating actors–are they the beauties? My husband is a photographer, and the shots I get sucked into are the ones where I am drawn into the person’s life-map on their face. To me, our life-maps of wrinkles are “real” and “interesting”–Real and interesting are shades of “beautiful.”

    • rachel bar says:

      A comment on FB made me realize how imprisoned I am to these archaic concepts. When I think of wrinkles as imperfections and as flaws, then I’m part of the problem and not part of the solution. Nicely stated Alli!

  13. Peter G. says:

    In my opinioin, vitality (insert your definition here) is what makes a person attractive.

    Dench’s character was optimistic and open to life. On the other hand, Maggie Smith was defininely not attractive when- at the beginning, she was embittered and withdrawn. However, she became attractive as she became empowered and engaged.

    Same woman; same wrinkles – the difference was the ‘twinkle’.

  14. It’s funny what you wrote. I reviewed the film after I saw it and also couldn’t get over how they looked especially Judi Dench who is so wrinkled yet still lovely. I know so many women who have had work done and it’s like an ad to leave yourself alone. I could use some Botox but would never out needles in my head full of poison no less. In 10 years watch, women will be getting sick all over the place because of this crap. Not a big fan of plastic but LOVED that film and love those women for just being who they are. Nicely written and don’t say that all the time.

  15. rachel bar says:

    Yes, I read his and commented on it. He also commented on mine.

  16. ljl01 says:

    I find the VHS yet lines in older adult faces to be interesting and revealing. For some reason, my phone translated the word “character” into “VHS yet”. Older people see nature and reality more clearly for having given up “rose-colored glasses”, fantasies and wishes, they focus on being happy in the present. I loved the film for showing how to adapt by making the best of whatever situation you find yourself in, without creating drama for others.

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