Every so often a movie comes along that brings together the cream of the crop of a particular group. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’s cast list reads like a who’s who of great British actors, starring Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton, Tom Wilkinson, Celia Imrie and Ronald Pickup with an injection of youth from Dev Patel and Tena Desae.
The movie begins by jumping between each of our senior protagonist’s situations as they enter their twilight years and look toward retirement. In the end all of them decide to move to a retirement resort in India, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel of the title. Their new home isn’t quite what any of them expected being rather run down and managed by the young, inexperienced, yet cheerfully optimistic Sonny. There are tales for each character but the magic and charm of the film is in their reactions to this new and overwhelming culture shock and they way the learn to adapt.
The strength of the film is in the characters themselves. Judi Dench’s husband is recently deceased and has left her with 40 years worth of debt, Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilton’s married couple refuse to get old and give up, Tom Wilkinson’s high court judge is tired of the life, Celia Imrie is looking for a new lease of life and some adventure, and Ronald Pickup’s Norman is a horny old devil looking for a good time. My favourite character though was Maggie Smith’s unintentionally racist ‘woman from another time’, just like your grandparents. She spends most of the movie in fear of the natives and it leads to some great comments which are comical rather than insulting.
Each of the characters has their own way of dealing with their massive change in life situation. Some handle it better than others, embracing the culture with gusto. They are all held together by Dev Patel’s Sonny, who is learning as much about hotel management as his residents are learning about their new home. He’s full of cheerful enthusiasm and great nuggets of wisdom like “It’ll be alright in the end. And if it’s not alright, then it is not yet the end”.
I really enjoyed the movie. The characters are all likeable and entirely believable, the country looks quite incredible and the colour and life of India is captured beautifully in its locales and its people. The film clocks in at just over two hours long, but it really doesn’t feel like it at all, more like a gentle stroll through the fear and fascination of people completely lost in a foreign land, at least initially.
This is easily the sort of film you can take your Mum to see as its inoffensive and a bit of fun really, but it doesn’t mean that it’s boring or safe, just simple fun that any generation can enjoy. Recommended.