The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
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The film follows a group of British retirees who decide to "outsource" their retirement to less expensive and seemingly exotic India. Enticed by advertisements for the newly restored Marigold Hotel and bolstered with visions of a life of leisure; they arrive to find the palace a shell of its former self. Though the new environment is less luxurious than imagined; they are forever transformed by their shared experiences; discovering that life and love can begin again when you let go of the past.
Some of the finest actors in England lend their formidable talents to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, a charming fish-out-of-water yarn. The Brits, who include Evelyn (Judi Dench), Muriel (Maggie Smith), Douglas (Bill Nighy), and Graham (Tom Wilkinson), are planning retirement in a less expensive country. After "thorough research on the Internet," the group chooses what looks to be a grand, peaceful retreat, the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. It turns out that the bloom is off this marigold--it's shabby, antiquated, and as chaotic as the city in India, Jaipur, where it is set. Who can adapt to this very different retirement experience, and who founders? That question lies at the heart of the plot of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. The cast is uniformly superb, as the retirees bond and bicker and fall out and then try to encourage one another. And Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire) shines as Sonny, the barely-holding-it-together Marigold Hotel manager. Patel and Tena Desae, who plays Sunaina, his girlfriend, are charming yet face adaptation struggles of their own, in a modern-day India still tied strongly to its traditions but rapidly charging into the future. And the young Indians also seem to represent the energetic future, as the Brits represent the old world that's fast falling. At its heart, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, deftly directed by John Madden, is an uplifting journey, allowing the viewer to feel what the retirees are discovering on the screen. When Evelyn sighs, "Nothing here has worked out quite as I expected," Muriel crisply replies, "Most things don't. But sometimes what happens instead is the good stuff." The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is most definitely the good stuff. --A.T. Hurley
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The story is simple. A group of English retirees answer the call to spend their golden years in affordable luxury at the titular hotel in India. After flight cancellations force the group to catch a bus and tuk-tuks (three-wheeled auto rickshaws) to their destination, they are disappointed to find that the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a rundown mess, a ruin of its former glory (or perhaps not). Many mishaps ensue as the Brits try and make the best of the situation and not run back to England with their collective tails between their legs. The movie, a comedy-drama has tons of potential and should have been so much better, but director John Madden ("Shakespeare in Love", "Captain Corelli's Mandolin") has fashioned an old fashioned movie with so little humor or drama that the movie is rendered lifeless.
The elite cast that Madden has assembled could perform the roles of these stereotypical characters in their sleep. There's a recently widowed woman who has never done a thing on her own (Judi Dench); a browbeaten husband and his nagging scold of a wife (Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilton); a desperately flirtatious golddigger of a certain age (Celia Imrie); a gay judge suffering tremendous guilt over events in the past (Tom Wilkinson); a fun-loving tomcat ready to pounce on any woman who'll say yes (Ronald Pickup); and, of course, Maggie Smith as a sour-faced ex-housekeeper (as opposed to her usual role as a sour-faced aristocrat). The situations the actors are thrown into are telegraphed far in advance, and there are absolutely no surprises. We already surmise that one of the characters will not make it to the end of the movie, and it's an egregious irritant that director Madden reaches back to film mores of the fifties to ensure that it's the "right" character who dies.
Other than Celia Imrie, and a lovely turn by Diana Hardcastle (as randy Pickup's understanding conquest), I think the Indian actors come off best. "Slumdog Millionaire's" Dev Patel is delightful as young Sonny, the inexperienced and cash-poor proprietor of the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (which he inherited from his equally inexperienced and inept father). Sonny's efforts to keep the hotel afloat and his genuine concern for his residents shine through in Patel's radiant performance. Tena Desae, as Sonny's girlfriend, a call-center operator, also amuses and does her best to keep her character afloat in an overpopulated dead sea of clichés.
Ben Davis' cinematography wonderfully captures the many hues and the whirling dervish continuity of life, which makes this film all the more disappointing. With all this life bursting at the seams, "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" feels dead on arrival.
Seven retirees from Britain all decide to travel to India for different reasons. Muriel (Maggie Smith) is having hip surgery, Douglas (Bill Nighy) and Jean (Penelope Wilton)'s daughter invested their life savings into a get rich quick scheme that still hasn't paid off, Evelyn (Judi Dench) is looking for a change in scenery after her husband has passed, Graham (Tom Wilkinson) grew up in India and is looking forward to returning there, Madge (Celia Imrie) is looking for a rich suitor who can make her feel like a desirable woman again, and Norman (Ronald Pickup) is just lonely and looking for that particular someone to make the last few years of his life worth living. With the low cost and exotic scenery of India enticing them, they all decide to stay at the newly restored Marigold Hotel. Unfortunately things aren't as advertised and the hotel is still undergoing massive renovations when they arrive. While the trip they wind up taking doesn't end up being the one they planned, it evolves into something they never could have counted on and are forever affected by their stay there.
The most unique thing about The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is that everyone has different personalities. Everybody seems to be so different from one another on the surface, but are much more alike underneath than they could have ever imagined. Muriel is the most surprising, especially if you've only seen Maggie Smith in the Harry Potter franchise. Her ignorant racist comments result in some of the most memorable scenes in the film. Douglas felt like the character I related to the most (I'm sure it'll probably be different for everyone). His tendency to stay quiet the majority of the time, but then blow everyone away with his sarcastic wit reminded me quite a bit of myself. Graham seemed very private at first, but the film immediately becomes more sentimental once he reveals why he actually came back to India. Evelyn's journey is the most emotional. You also spend the most time with her, but seeing her life transform from the beginning of the film to its conclusion is pretty spectacular.
The only character I couldn't stand was Jean. She was so hypocritical and close-minded. Then to top it off, she threw several hissy fits because she didn't get her way and because "India is hot." Those types of people get on my last nerve and I couldn't wait to see the last of her. Sonny's (Dev Patel) blind optimism is a little irritating especially since everything is going so terribly for him, but his enthusiasm causes him to be the comedic relief in nearly every scene he's in.
When asked what I thought after the movie ended, my big joke was, "I think I was about 40 years too young for that." In all honesty though, it isn't quite that bad. While I don't necessarily fall into the demographic it's aimed towards, there are still things to enjoy and appreciate along the way. The humor featured in the film did seem to fall flat more often than not, but I found things were at their strongest whenever somebody told a story about their past. That's when things would become the most emotional, genuine, and absorbing. The heartfelt moments were greater than the attempts at humor. The message the film gives is also easy to relate to as everyone wants to reach the top of that mountain and life is always taking turns we don't expect. At the end of the day, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is similar to Albert Nobbs in the sense that it's not necessarily a bad film but just isn't really the type of film that speaks to me the way that it should.