The talents of Dench, Smith and Nighy are what got me in the cinema for this one. Had I also known it was co-produced by Imagenation (Contagion, The Help, Sea Shadow), I would have been doubly excited.
Unhappy couple Douglas (Bill Nighy) and Jean (Penelope Wilton) are biding their time until their ill-advised investment in their daughter’s company makes returns. Racist caretaker Muriel (Maggie Smith) needs to undergo hip surgery. Grieving Evelyn (Judi Dench) who lost her husband of 40 years wants a chance to start over and gain independence. Norman (Ronald Pickup) wants to get laid while young at heart grandmother Madge (Celia Imrie) is looking for a new husband. Finally, Judge Graham (Tom Wilkinson) suddenly decides to retire and return to the place where he grew up.
These are the circumstances which take a group of British senior citizens to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the Elderly and Beautiful…in India. What none of them expected is that their destination will turn out to be a far cry from the luxurious exotic abode they saw advertized on the internet.
Based on the novel These Foolish Things by Deborah Moggach, the film’s message is quite clear: you can either make lemonade with the lemons life gives you, or become a sour fruit yourself. But more important than any morals conveyed is the wonderful spirit of the film and its characters.
I found the interaction between the characters riveting. Subtle gentleness, resigned acceptance, and bitter disappointment laced the conversations between these strangers turned friends. It was an absolute treat watching so many veteran actors play off each other. The chemistry between Dench, Nighy, and Wilkinson was as sweet as that between Imrie and Pickup was humorous. Then there is the marvelous Smith who garners her share of laughs…and tears. Finally, Nighy’s impassioned speech and Wilton’s character’s response to it made for an emotionally thrilling climax.
Viewers will undoubtedly be infused with tender emotion, that is, when they are not laughing. The script is liberally sprinkled with great one-liners perfectly delivered by the stellar cast, including Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire) as Sonny. The ever optimistic, bumbling yet ambitious young hotel manager was one of the film’s best aspects. Unfortunately, through no fault of his own, he was also one of its worst. I specifically mean the romantic subplot. I was completely uninterested in how Sonny’s mother disapproves of his girlfriend Sunaina (Tena Desae). Enduring the mandatory profession of love and the predictable eventual concession, I lamented the wasted screen time hadn’t been used towards the more profound, infinitely more interesting dynamics of the elders, or even towards Sonny’s own dilemma of running a hotel on his own despite both his mother and girlfriend’s doubt of his success.
I was also a bit disappointed that we didn’t get more scenery out of India. It would have been nice to see the temples mentioned in some detail. I also felt the music was a bit too generic and familiar (same mandatory Indian flute). But these flaws are insignificant when weighed against the general experience of watching this film. Like the hotel in the title, it’s not perfect, but it is perfectly endearing. I would actually love to see a sequel.
“The only real failure is the failure to try. The measure of success is how we cope with disappointment.”-Evelyn.
“When I want your opinion I’ll give it to you.”-Jean
“I don’t want to grow older. To be marginalized and condescended to.”-Madge
“Can there be anywhere else in the world that is such an assault on the senses?”
“Is it our friend we are grieving for or our own loss?”-Evelyn
“People here see life as a privilege not a right.”-Evelyn
“Let me through, please! My brother is a doctor.”-Sonny
“Everything will be all right in the end. So if it is not all right, it is not the end.”-Sonny
“You know who’ll be there? Indians. Loads of them.”-Muriel
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