The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel


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Cast: Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson, Celia Imrie, Penelope Wilton, Ronald Pickup, Dev Patel, Tena Desae.

Based lightly on the book These Foolish Things by Deborah Moggach, this film gives a kind of kaleidoscopic spangly Indian glamour to the loneliness of old age and the difficulties of change. In a world where economics drives everything, outsourcing extends to facilities for the aged, and exporting Britain’s elderly to sunnier, cheaper climes seems a good solution. With a stellar cast, the film succeeds joyously, presenting both realism and optimism in seven English retirees who, through varying fates, find themselves at the over-hyped and largely misrepresented Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: Haven for the Elderly and Beautiful.  Once arrived, their personalities determine how well they thrive or not, in the bewildering, crowded colour and confusion of Bangalore.

For some, it’s a terrifying experience in unfamiliarity. Muriel, played acerbically by Maggie Smith, needs a hip operation that is obtained far more cheaply and swiftly in Bangalore than through England’s NHS. From a wheelchair she battles her racial prejudice and other limitations with some brilliant one-liners. Penelope Wilton’s Jean shuts out the overwhelming noise and bustle of India from the safe limits of the crumbling hotel, while her accommodating husband Douglas, (Bill Nighy), revels in the temples and genuine friendship he finds. Tom Wilkinson’s Graham searches for an old love; gold-digger Madge (Celia Imrie) searches for a rich maharaja, and Ronald Pickup’s Norman finds he doesn’t need little blue pills. Evelyn (Judi Dench) is a gentle soul whose message is the central one of the film. It’s never too late to find love, and wonder, and joy in life, provided you can stand up to adversity or an over-bearing mother.

Dev Patel plays Sonny, who blissfully asserts that it all turns out well in the end, and if things are not yet good, it’s not yet the end. The hotel he has dreamed of creating is partly castle in the air and his love for the beauteous Sunaina (Tena Desae) is equally on shaky ground if the life and the marriage his mother has arranged for him are his fate. The film has much about courage to live life authentically, and though the characters are necessarily in less depth than those of the book, the essentials are there in a wonderful melange of saturated colour and ironical humour.


© Avril Carruthers 10th April 2012





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