Anyone who has ever booked a hotel by its picture and shown up thinking they are on the wrong planet can identify with the characters in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. That’s where a group of British senior citizens head after seeing an enticing ad and seeking the perfect place to spend their golden years. So seven naïve Brits say goodbye to homes and families and head off for a late-in-life adventure in Jaipur, India.
Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy
Some, like Evelyn (Judi Dench), have little to lose, as she has realized her life has not measured up to her expectations. She’s searching for a job and open for new discoveries. Madge (Celia Imrie) has not found her Mr. Perfect and the fancy resort club that maintains a high-profile clientele seems the perfect target for her. Douglas (Bill Nighy) has lost a lot in a bad investment and must convince his wife Jean (Penelope Wilton) that living in a cheaper country will be fun and affordable. Norman is an old man who is profoundly lonely and seeks a new relationship – maybe that will include sex. Ronald Pickup (The Day Of The Jackal), shows through Norman that life isn’t over until you give up.
Dench (Shakespeare In Love) easily handles every raised brow of delight as Evelyn makes new discoveries. Imrie (Calendar Girls) keeps her character’s gold-digger side well under control throwing in a sweet surprise here and there. Nighy is superb in creating new excitement in Douglas who is having the time of life as he ventures off every day. Wilton is also great in portraying the staid Jean who is incensed at where they are and only wants to go home.
Some of the stories move off into their own subplots. Muriel (Maggie Smith) is an old grouch who came along on the trip to get a better price on a hip replacement and keeps hotel manager Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel, the wonderful star in Slumdog Millionaire) hopping with her unreasonable requests. Graham was a court judge in England who decided on the spur of the moment he still had something he needed to do and quits his job on the spot to make the move. Tom Wilkinson (In The Bedroom, Michael Clayton), brings his amazing talent to create the compelling story that drives Graham.
Several romances dance throughout the film. One is between Sonny and his girlfriend Sunaina (Tena Desae), who is far from the girl his mother has arranged for him to marry. Patel instills an amusing vigor into his character that’s a good balance to his hotel guests.
Based on the novel by Deborah Moggach, the movie has much humor, and director John Madden (Proof) liked that the film offered the comedy of displacement alongside the melancholy of loss – and the tribulations and joys of trying to grow older with grace and vitality. Ben Davis’s (The Debt) cinematography makes a nice travel brochure of India.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is enjoyable, funny and inspires us to look at the glass as half full instead of half empty.
Photo Credits: Ishika Mohan / Fox Searchlight