The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2012)
The proprietor of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Sonny (Dev Patel), believes he can revive the status of the vacant establishment by catering to senior citizens from the UK. He continues to fix the building, attempting to make it look as good as it did in the pictures he has used to lure the first batch of residents. The first seven seniors to travel to this India retirement home find the accommodations do not match their expectations.
The retirees end up at the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for a multitude of reasons, most being financial or exploratory. Evelyn (Judi Dench) is a widow with unexpected debts left by her husband. Douglas (Bill Nighy) and Jean (Penelope Wilton), the only couple among the travelling seniors, are also cash strapped. They lent their daughter their retirement fund for her business startup and have yet to see any returns. Muriel (Maggie Smith) is in need of a hip replacement. She can be put on a six-month wait list in her own country or have the surgery and recovery outsourced to India. Graham (Tom Wilkinson) is a high court judge who suddenly decides it is time to retire. He is returning to the country where he spent his formative years. Norman (Ronald Pickup) and Madge (Celia Imrie) are both vivacious and in search of new love.
The script is dense with a lot crammed into the movie’s 2-hour, 4-minute running time. The eight main characters in this ensemble each have their own arcs. Some overcome their prejudices or emotional barriers. Some find love or come to terms with their new status. For the most part, the scenes are pieced together well with the exception of a few moments when the plots are forced to fit everything into a 2-hour package. That final package is full of character studies, cultural differences, and humor.
There are few jokes at the expense of their old age and most of them occur in the native country at the beginning of the film. Once they arrive in India most of the humor is cultural and situational, the same laughs that you’d get from any age of characters. Everything is handled with respectability and dignity by director John Madden, which can also be said for his last film, last year’s The Debt.
The two things that stand out most in this film are the feel-good nature of the script and the incredible cast. The collection of such highly respected actors shines in these roles. The film creates a pleasant and unique view on aging wrapped in subtle commentary on how globally connected the world is becoming.