A feel-good film loaded with humor, drama, life lessons, a star-studded cast and a bit of spice, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel has all the right ingredients for a box-office hit. Based on the novel, ‘These Foolish Things’ by Deborah Maggorch, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel introduces all the seven British retirees from the beginning in search of something. Judi Dench plays the recently widowed housewife in search of breaking out of her shell, Evelyn Greenslade; Tom Wilkinson, the high court judge in search of a lost love from his past life in India and the only character not in the novel,Graham Dashwood; Billy Nighy and Penelope Wilton, the unhappily married couple that lost their life savings to their daughter’s company and are in search of an inexpensive retirement home, Douglas and Jean Ainslie; Maggie Smith, a racist old broad in search of a new hip, Muriel Donnelly; and lastly Celia Imrie and Ronald Pickup, who play Madge Hardcastle and Norman Cousins respectively, in search of a new love and a new life. Whether they find what they’re looking for or not, India reveals it for them.
In recent films, there has been an inclination to portray elderly characters as different versions of a comical, absent-minded, one dimensional person. It was so refreshing to the see the elderly characters in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel with feelings, values, traits and emotions far beyond the generalized view of this generation. To see them for themselves, as people, and not as a joke, in a film was a treat in itself.
The story begins with the retirees moving to Jaipur, India due to an advertisement of a palace-like retirement home called ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’, but instead they come across a dilapidated, neglected and empty home that was passed down to Sonny (Dev Patel) from his late father. Sonny, an energetic and optimistic young man, is struggling to keep his father’s hotel alive with his mother (Lillete Dubey) resisting his efforts to keep the hotel alive as well as resisting Sonny’s modern girlfriend,Sunaina (Tena Desae).
“Everything will be all right in the end, and if it’s not all right then it is not yet the end” becomes the mantra of the film as Sonny tries to subdue the infuriated Jean over the falsely advertised palace. With young and old romance leading the way, the stories begin to entwine in the film and emotional growth is shown for the elderly characters over such a short period of time, which makes you think that there is hope for people out there and maybe you can teach an old dog new tricks.
The cinematography of the film was beautifully done with shots that provided India with a fairly accurate image of extreme poverty and wealth. Certain shots with positions to the camera angle allowed a more of a metaphorical than a literal emphasis to the scenes. One scene in particular is where Maggie Smith’s character meets an untouchable’s family. Though the family is sitting on the ground, the framing of the family in the scene is shown as “below Maggie’s character” and not because of the literal position of the actor’s seating arrangements but because the caste structure has placed them in the shot that way. With gorgeous frames of city life, rural life and the beautiful sites the film captures India wonderfully.
Serving as the narrator for the film, Judi Dench shines in her role as the housewife embarking on a new life all alone for the first time; Maggie Smith leaves you in stitches from laughing at her absolutely insane racist remarks; Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, and Penelope Wilton keep up the solemnity of the film while Ronald becomes the adorable old flirt that you grow fond of. Though Dev Patel seemed to struggle in his role through his accent and a bit of overacting, it was a fair attempt.
All in all, it was a fantastically directed film that will make you laugh, make you cry, and leave you thinking about all the deeper things in life.