Film Review: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

| 22 March , 2012 | Reply

Directed by: John Madden
Starring: Bill Nighy, Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Dev Patel
Sassi\’s Star Rating: 5/5

Clever, bright, and beautiful. That\’s the most accurate way to describe The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. With an all-star cast such as Bill Nighy, Judi Dench, and Maggie Smith, you wouldn\’t expect director John Madden to have to go far to make a box office hit. Blessedly, he goes above and beyond.

The script, based on the novel These Foolish Things by Deborah Moggach, is full of witty dialogue, the characters are rich in their strengths and flaws, and the vibrant scenery of India draws you into this surprisingly refreshing film.

The overarching theme is the frustration of several retirees, trying to find affordable and satisfying retirement accommodation in Britain. Seeking an alternative to shabby housing, loneliness, moving in with their children, and spending the rest of their days babysitting their spoiled grandchildren, they are drawn to India through the advertisement of a beautiful brochure for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

They meet for the first time at the airport, and it\’s a delight to see the cast together. Unfortunately for the group, it\’s not until they reach the hotel, run by the enthusiastic manager played by Dev Patel of Slumdog Millionaire fame, that they realize the brochure was, to put it lightly, highly photoshopped. Out of money and with little choice, they decide to stay and through various trials and discoveries, most of them learn to call this new place home.

The movie is similar in style to Love Actually, with the stories intermingling, often with humorous encounters, there is never a dull moment. The characters – and they are characters – are so varied that you can\’t possibly get bored. Celia Imrie plays a sultry woman busy exploring India\’s wealthy clubs where she insists to be seated by single rich men. Tom Wilkinson\’s stoic character, Graham, struggles to reconnect with his past, while Ronald Pickup\’s charming scoundrel searches to connect with anything female.
Maggie Smith transforms into the frail, but extremely racist woman, Murial, in need of a hip replacement. When the U.K. doctor informs her that she has to wait 6 months to get the replacement, Smith argues, “At my age I can\’t plan that far ahead, I don\’t even buy green bananas.” This leads her to India for a faster surgery, and watching the reaction of this racist character in India is, though at times inappropriate, highly amusing.

Nighy shines as the loyal Douglas, struggling to make his pretentious and neurotic wife, played by Penelope Wilton, find the beauty in each day. When she refuses to leave the hotel for fear of wandering the hectic streets, and instead spends her time naming all the cockroaches in her room, he finds friendship in other places.

The unfaultable Dench struggles to make ends meet after her husband died with considerable debts, leaving her alone for the first time in forty years. But her strength and wisdom not only help Evelyn (Dench) gain her feet, but allows her to guide and assist her growing circle of friends. It\’s her brief but poetic updates to her son that tie all the storylines together. As she says in one entry of their growing fondness for India, “Like Darwin\’s finches, we are slowly starting to adapt.”

The film plays with the juxtaposition of people from all ages, in new love, falling out of old love, searching for their past, and finding a new lease on life in the most unexpected places.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a true gem. You\’ll laugh throughout the film and leave with a smile on your face and a warm heart, and in the movie world these days, that is truly priceless.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is in cinemas now.


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