John Madden's "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" is like a whimsy fairy tale almost entirely starring old British people; some cranky, some kindly, others just trying to get by at an older age. It is a film that treats the topics of aging and opportunism lightly but not with so much as a hint of arrogance; the film feels true to its themes and always comes off as honest. It's a crowd-pleasing film that I can imagine will win over a lot of people, and for the most part, I can gladly say I'd join in for the admiration of the picture. Yet about half-way through, I started feeling more than a little unfulfilled. I went in with the understanding that it wasn't going to be anything particularly new, and I'd been told that the cast is really what made this one work; not colorful direction or brilliant writing. Whoever told me this is damn right.
The titular exotic hotel is intended as a retirement home for "the old and the beautiful", and it is located in India. There are seven elderly characters total that all come to exist under a single roof, and before they relocate, we get to meet them all. There's the recently widowed Evelyn (Judi Dench), the high court judge Graham (Tom Wilkinson), married couple Jean (Penelope Wilton) and Doug (Bill Nighy), royalty-seeking Madge (Celia Imrie), sporadic Norman (Ronald Pickup), and the racist and wheelchair-bound Muriel (Maggie Smith). We know instantly that they are not all as different as most ensemble pieces would probably want them to be.
Here's the "plot" as it is: each of the seven characters discovers something about themselves through others. For instance, we learn that Doug and Jean are not so happily married, leading Jean to become infatuated with Graham, who is a closeted homosexual with a romantic connection in the country. Meanwhile, Doug and Evelyn seem to connect quite nicely; whilst Marge helps Norman to achieve his dream; which is to successfully reclaim his youth in India. So of course, with that, there's a whole lot of walking around; several days spent enjoying the virtues of the country and its culture. Most members of the crew find so much comfort in themselves that they might as well skip the usual fish-out-of-water shtick. But it's still kind of there.
When it comes to an ensemble piece, it can either be really good or it can be shit. Or it can be like "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" and it can sort of exist on the border between the two. In my humble opinion, it's neither close to being really good nor is it close to being really bad. It is a mostly entertaining human comedy with some welcome dramatic touches, although not all of them actually work. I feel this would have worked better as a film that focuses on the Doug-Evelyn relationship, because I thought it was kind of the centerfold of the film. Don't get me wrong, most everyone has an interesting story to tell, but it becomes sort of an enjoyable but slightly irritating mess really fast. To be completely honest, it lost me a few times.
Oh, and I can't forget to mention the character of Sonny (Dev Patel), the hotel's young manager. He's supposed to bring some sort of youthful dynamic to the story amidst all these older gents and ladies, with a sub-plot involving his girlfriend and the like, but I thought he slowed the plot down. Obviously, this isn't supposed to be a breakneck-paced feature, but all the scenes heavily involving Sonny and his problems reminded me of how overlong the film really was. Now, it's not painfully overlong (in fact, it's just a tad), but if Madden had chosen to focus more on the elderly that this younger and less intriguing character, things might have come off as a little less messy. "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" is a pleasant yet frustratingly familiar film, one that I can say I respect and for the most part enjoyed, but at the same time recognize that there are just far too many dull stretches in between the truly good stuff. It's just not very ambitious, although that's not something that bothers most people who go to these kinds of movies anyways.
In a timely topic, a group of British retirees are persuaded by a hyped-magazine article, to travel to India for a more enjoyable retirement. The add describes the hotel where all the residents are in their golden years, people will be able to see the lovely sights of India and do so, economically. The cast is excellent. Directed by John Madden, with Judi Dench, Bill Nighy and two characters I recently enjoyed in the TV series, Downton … more
Star Rating: I left John Madden’s The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel prepared to describe it as a fairy tale, only to realize how condescending that would be. Here is a film in which contrivances are not a narrative obligation but a means to an end, a method of sending a message that’s not only valid but life-affirming as well. Liking this film really has nothing to do with overlooking its obviously manufactured plot and reliably developed characters. … more
The story focuses on a varied group British senior citizens who all find themselves feeling useless and wondering, “Is there more to life?” They each decide they need a complete change of pace and move to India to live in a fabulous retirement hotel, which, of course, turns out to be not at all fabulous. They adjust in varying degrees to Indian culture; some find what they were looking for, others not so much. The outstanding ensemble cast is headed … more
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
Consider the Source
Use Trust Points to see how much you can rely on this review.