Stellar British Cast Fills Out Pleasant 'The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel'
By STEWART SMITH
"The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" is a prime example of a "great little movie."
In other words, it's a well-meaning, well-written, well-acted movie that features a wonderful cast of amazing British actors. It's content to tell a series of intimate, interconnected stories but never feels heavy-handed or sappy in the way that it tugs at the audience's heartstrings. It's not some dithering piece of awards bait, it's a competent, confident bit of dramatic filmmaking that is confident in simply being what it is.
There are six stories, though incredibly we never lose sight of characters and the script never feels overstuffed. The right amount of attention is paid to each character with each having a poignant moment of their own. There's Evelyn (Judi Dench), a recent widower who has spent most of her life married and has never held a job of her own. Graham (Tom Wilkinson) is a judge who decides a fellow judge's retirement party is the proper time to declare his own, immediate, retirement. Douglas (Bill Nighy) and Jean (Penelope Wilton) can't bear the thought of being forced into living in a retirement community. Norman (Ronald Pickup) is lonely and just wants to find a hot date. Madge (Celia Imrie) is tired of perpetually looking after her grandkids and wants to feel young again. Muriel (Maggie Smith) has no family and is in need of a hip replacement.
The only thing these characters have in common is they've all come to India to have a stay at the titular Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, a ramshackle establishment that hardly lives up to the splendor its advertisement suggests. The hotel is run by Sonny (Dev Patel), an ambitious young man desperate to make his deceased father's dream of running the hotel a reality.
The structure of the film is fairly loose and we spend time with these characters in what essentially amounts to a series of vignettes. There isn't an overarching plot that necessarily connects each character's individual story, though their paths frequently intersect with a few directly combining by the end. The individual strands, though, are heartfelt and honest. As you would likely expect, the film is about these men and women coming to grips with their age, the fact that their loved ones are either dead or no longer love them in return, or simply admitting how lonely they truly are.
Directed by John Madden (the guy who directed "Shakespeare in Love," not the football announcer) and based on the novel by Deborah Moggach, "Marigold Hotel" could have been an overstuffed piece where these characters mostly spend their time feeling frustrated and sorry for themselves, but thankfully that's hardly the case. T
hese are characters who, despite their age are determined to find a new purpose, a new path in their life. Obviously I can't really identify with someone at that sort of station in life, but with these sort of actors in place, it's more or less impossible not to sympathize with them.
If nothing else it's a delight to watch these brilliant veterans of Britain's screen and stage together and interacting. Sort of like "The Expendables" but with slightly fewer explosions.
If I had a complaint it's that Madden doesn't quite use the backdrop of India to its fullest, though its locations and people add a wonderful bit of color. It's an interesting location for a group of this sort to arrive at in order to "find themselves," but it works.
"The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" isn't some revelatory experience, nor does it provide some bit of profound examination about growing old that hasn't been examined elsewhere, but it is pleasant and quite often very funny. Not an essential movie for theater viewing, but if you're looking for some summer blockbuster counter-programming, this will do just the trick.
Stewart Smith is the Entertainment Editor for the
Tyler Morning Telegraph
. Contact him at 903-596-6301 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org