25 May 2012
Comedy | Drama
Who says that retirement has to be boring? Why can’t getting older be fun, even a globetrotting adventure? In the latest independent movie from Fox Searchlight, “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” explores the lives of seven British retirees on holiday in one of the most beautiful and removed places in the world: India.
We open on Oscar-winner Judi Dench (Goldeneye, Quantum of Solace) playing Evelyn, a recent widow who has never worked a day in her life. Then we turn to Tom Wilkinson (In the Bedroom, Batman Begins) as Graham, a retired Judge who wants to return back to India to find his long lost love. Shifting over to Bill Nighy (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Rango) as Douglas, a man trapped in a loveless marriage. Then we have Oscar-winner Maggie Smith (California Suite, Harry Potter I-VIII) as Muriel, a bigoted woman who needs a hip replacement, and when she can’t afford it her hip is outsourced overseas. They all meet in India, Dubai to be specific, where there is a retirement hotel opening for business just for them, looking gorgeous and fun. However, when the place is run by Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire), it is really just a third-rate hotel in a shabby part of town. The English guests are stunned, and they all need time to adjust to their new surroundings. Some are able to enjoy it, others can’t make the transition, but they will all be changed for better or worse.
Directed by John Madden (Shakespeare in Love, The Debt) and filmed on location in India, this movie feels like “Cocoon” by way of “The Darjeeling Limited”. The main cast is wonderful, even in their serious moments. Dench is good as usual, Nighy’s deadpan humor is spot on, Smith’s cantankerous old woman turns around to be less prejudiced and actually helps the hotel gain business, but Wilkinson playing a man searching for his life’s love after 40 years is absolutely heartbreaking. I wish I could have seen more of him in this, yet he is very satisfying to watch. Young Patel could maybe have had a less goofy character but he serves his purpose. Now while I did enjoy this kaleidoscope of characters, the leaden pacing and sometimes heavy tone did make me enjoy this a little less. This is a slow movie, meant to be enjoyed by an audience exclusively older than 50.
“The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” will not appeal as much to younger audiences, but older viewers will see this as something for them and enjoy it thoroughly. I laughed, cried, as was moved. The line “Prepare to be amazed” seems a little wrong, but you will at least be satisfied.