Monday, May 14

REVIEW: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Directed by John Madden
2 hours, 4 minutes
From Fox Searchlight

Judi Dench
Bill Nighy
Dev Patel
Penelope Wilton
Celia Imrie
Ronald Pickup
Lilette Dubey
Diana Hardcastle
Tom Wilkinson
Maggie Smith

Absolutely charming.  It smacks of a Merchant-Ivory film, but is spear-headed by John Madden, director of Mrs. Brown (1997), Shakespeare in Love (1998), Proof (2005) and The Debt (2010).  Madden brings us a tale about the older generation with finesse, wit, respect and fun.

Seven British retirees decide to travel to India for various reasons including to reside there because it's cheaper than living in England. Only one has been there and he is returning to hopefully look up a former boyfriend.  They have been told of an exotic and exciting hotel and of course once they arrive it is anything but that.  It has, in fact, fallen on hard times and is very much in need of permanent tenants to survive.  Run by the seat of his pants, Dev Patel (of Slumdog Millionaire fame) promises it is for the retired and the beautiful.  Not only is he not a con man, he genuinely wants everything to work out for them and for himself.  He's out to create a win-win.

Judi Dench is a recent widow who is reticent about her new location but quick to change when she finds employment at a call center.  Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilton are an unhappily married couple with starkly different opinions about their new country.  Celia Imrie and Ronald Pickup, though strangers, come to find out they both want to nab a rich partner.  Maggie Smith is a crotchety, temporarily wheelchair-bound reclusive type in need of hip replacement and an atttitude change.  Wilkinson is the chap looking for a past love.

All are delightful.  It is through their ensemble work that we find a constant smile on our faces watching it all unfold.  Arguably it could be said that young Patel has the most screen time and he is such fun but it is the oldsters that bring us such joy. Old friends in real-life and frequent costars, Smith and Dench, of course, are top-notch and so is Imrie in her quest for the gold.  Fans of Downton Abbey will appreciate and enjoy seeing two from that cast in this film, Smith and Wilton.

It is not often that we get to see an engaging story (or any other kind of story) about characters in their 70s.   How lovely it is to see the respect accorded them in the storytelling about love, lost opportunities, sex, money, marriage, illness, just managing.

Additionally, we get an indication of Indian life as well, especially with respect to family life, relationship expectations, formidable mothers.  Kudos to Lilette Dubey as that mother.  I was impressed.

Several characters express dismay with India.  They speak of the heat, the squalor, the crowdedness, the noise.  I must say I agree.    While some upbeat things about the country are discussed or glimpsed, it seemed far more on the down side was in evidence.  I may have wanted to visit Italy after seeing Under the Tuscan Sun or France after seeing The Good Life, but India is not likely to be on my bucket list any time soon.


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