The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

I am a sucker for a sub genre of movies that I like to call, Learning to Love Again. The first time I noticed this theme was in the brilliant movie, Shadowlands. And now there’s an even better one — The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

Each of these retiring English characters — a civil servant, judge, housewife, grandmother — heads to India as if they were put out to pasture. What they find is life and love and one another.

Walking out onto 57th Street after seeing the movie on Monday, I felt uplifted — as if I just had a deep, funny and meaningful conversation with a best friend. As I commented on my friend’s Facebook status, “The movie is cheaper and more effective than therapy.” The movie made me feel that all things are possible. Just because I’m ageing doesn’t mean my life’s over. Adventure still lies ahead.

Each character is transformed in some way. From their transformations, I offer you these life lessons.

  1. Quit with the negativity — one character sees only what’s wrong and drives everyone away. Stay optimistic.
  2. Forgive yourself — the Tom Wilkinson character believes he has ruined someone’s life, but think again. Don’t hold yourself hostage to events of your past.
  3. Work — the character played by Judi Dench gets a job for the first time in her life. Work adds purpose and a bounce to her step.
  4. Embrace your enthusiasm — the character played by Dev Patel has a big dream. And you need a big dream to infect those around you to make big things happen.
  5. Life is a privilege, not a right — there are beautiful, wise, struggling people everywhere. Notice where you are and treasure your life. Carpe diem.
  6. You can still have sex when you’re old — this is refreshing.
  7. Age naturally — what a thrill to see movie stars like Maggie Smith with furrows, wrinkles, smile lines. Thank God, she looks real, not botox-ed, nipped and tucked and fake.
  8. Travel — immerse yourself in a new culture. See your world anew. Forfeit old stereotypes.
  9. Remain open — the thing you think will be extraordinary may not be; but the thing or person you don’t expect to change your life will change you for good.

If you see the movie, and I hope you do — it opens May 4th — what life lessons did you take away?

Go for the truth or a laugh?

Hayden , my 13-year old, told me this morning that he wants to be a Yes Man!

“Yes! I like that! I want to be a Yes Woman!” I said. I want to say Yes to each and every day.

Even if I have to take my life in a totally different direction than what is offered, I want to accept every offer!  And say Yes!

Like most great life lessons, I learned this one doing improv comedy.

I was a part of the CBGB Gallery Improv company. Back in the early 90s, when CBGB existed, we performed improv every Wednesday night at the gallery next to the club. I met some of my best friends and comedy partners there.Our fearless leader –Karen Kristal  — would tell us, “Go for the truth. Don’t go for the Laff!” She would say laugh like that — like Laaaaffff, like an English person, although I’m pretty sure she was a New Yorker (New Yawka!).

We would say Yes, Yes, Yes to her. And then when the audience showed up and the lights went up, we’d go for the laugh.

That is the catch to being a Yes Person. You have to follow it up with some action.

I’ve learned this with my son, the Yes Man.

“Time for bed! Get off the computer!”

“Yes Mom!” And then, he doesn’t leave Facebook.

“Will you please help me clean this kitchen?”

“Yes Mom.” And then he never shows. Never turns off the XBox. At this point in the conversation, I would like to go for a laugh, but I have to go for the truth.

The truth is not as fun or as easy as the laugh. The truth, though, can lead to the laugh. (The laugh can lead to the truth.)

Either way, start by accepting the offer. Rule Number One in improv? Accept every offer. Say Yes!