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Star - Judy Dench
Genre - Drama/Comedy
Run Time - 124 minutes
Certificate -PG 13
Country - British/India
BAFTA - One
Amazon -£3.00 DVD (£6.75 Blue Ray)
Blockbuster Rental- £1.49 per night or 5 for £5 weekly deal.
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"When someone dies, you think about your own life. And I don't want to grow older. I don't want to be condescended to....to become marginalized and ignored by society. I don't want to be the first person they let off the plane in a hostage situation!".
So The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, based on the book 'These Foolish Things' by Deborah Moggach (2003), an impressive and rather aged ensemble cast making this film the surprise hit of 2012 in the United Kingdom, banking an amazing £100 million pounds, considering its target audience and old fogey content. It finished the third most popular film that year, beaten only by the Avengers and The Hunger Games. You name it they are in it. Dame Judy Dench, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Dame Maggie Smith, Penelope Wilton and so on and so on. It even beat The Queen (2006) and Calendar Girls (2003) in the all time British film list for takings to date.
Its surprise hit because of the subject matter of an old folks home in India. I don't think anybody could have predicted that the later age demographic that the film and the book are about would pack out the cinemas with some young ones alongside, this film of the book very much choice middle-aged read for the second home in Provence.
Judi Dench ... Evelyn Greenslade
Tom Wilkinson ... Graham Dashwood
Dev Patel ... Sonny Kapoor
Tena Desae ... Sunaina
Lillete Dubey ... Mrs. Kapoor
Celia Imrie ... Madge Hardcastle
Bill Nighy ... Douglas Ainslie
Penelope Wilton ... Jean Ainslie
Maggie Smith ... Muriel Donnelly
Lucy Robinson ... Judith
Ronald Pickup ... Norman Cousins
Liza Tarbuck ... Staff Nurse
Paul Bhattacharjee... Dr. Ghujarapartidar
=== The Plot===
Various oldies for various reasons set out from Heathrow for an adventure with great and expected trepidation, the plan to attempt retirement in India. A young man called Sonny (Dev Patel) has been left a broken down old hotel from the Raj through his family and has a dream too 'outsource English old age to India', and not just for the British - 'many other countries where they don't like old people too', quips Sonny.
Evelyn Greenslade (Judi Dench) has just lost her husband and burdened with his debt and so has to sell the flat in London, but willing to take some risk in her later life and embrace a new challenge and intending to write a blog on the rich experience to come in India. Retired lawyer Graham Dashwood (Tom Wilkinson) is on the plane to relive his youth he enjoyed in old India, whilst married couple Doug (Bill Nighy) and Jean Ainsle (Penelope Wilton) are trying to reignite their relationship by taking on this adventure. Social climber Madge (Celia Imrie) is simply here to try and up her status by marrying old money, whilst racist Eastender Muriel (Maggie Smith) has been sent to India by the NHS to get a hip operation on the cheap. Our septuagenarian sextet is completed by Ronald Pickup (Norman Cousins), a suitable surname, also on the prowl for a new partner.
After a grueling trip from the airport they are greeted with the rather ramshackle Marigold Hotel, some of the first guest to this bold venture wanting to turn around right there and go straight home. But time heels uncertainty and they are soon marking out their patch. Graham is embracing the old India he remembers from his youth whilst Evelyn sets out to find a job at the grand old age of 74, embracing new India in a call center. Muriel is moping around the hotel after her operation trying to confront her bigotry whilst the Ainsle's are bickering away as their marriage continues to rot. Madge and Ron hit the town in search of potential partners, the grand old Raj club the opening hunting ground. They are all here for a practical reason but mystical India sure to find out the real them.
How many husbands have you had?
Madge Hardcastle: Including my own?
Sonny does his best with his needy guests but soon getting his ear bent by mom (Lillete Dubey), threatening to take away his silly dream and packing him off to Bombay for more respectful employment, his girlfriend Sunia (Tena Desae) always under pressure to dump him. But if this plan works it could be quite a success and bring great pride to the Kapoor family. But how do you get old people from England to enjoy the chaos and hustle and bustle of an Indian town without their Hobnobs and Coronation Street?
Evelyn's Blog: [about their new environment] Initially you're overwhelmed. But gradually you realize it's like a wave. Resist, and you'll be knocked over. Dive into it, and you'll swim out the other side.
Looking like a casting call for a 1970s front from Suburban British sitcom, this ends up a sort of middle-class version of the TV series 'Benidorm', and if you let it wash over you its really quite sweet. It's very much something borrowed, something blue, something old and something new with the script and one or two big laughs to be had with that intelligent and thoughtful writing, none more so when Princess Margaret meets Prince Phillip. Anyone who has read this type of female written book will recognize the writing style, partially delivered through Judy Dench's narration. In fact you can imagine the cast of this film reading this type of stuff at home and on set somewhere, not even movie stars exempt from the cruelness of old age. The big audience for this around the world also proves the enduring pulling power of Dame Judy Dench, the always brilliant Tom Wilkinson and the dryly funny Bill Nighy and Dame Maggie Smith in cinema. Smith has some cracking lines.
The film does try to weave in familiar this part of the world movie cliché with wobbly headed Indians, arranged marriage and cricket on the streets whilst enjoying the friction of bumping up against modern call-centre. It's trying to draw in an Indian audience as it is a traditional British one the way Slumdog Millionaire skillfully did. In fact the forbidden love story of young Dev Patel with Tena Desae is almost a continuation of that movie its that blatant, director John Madden (Shakespeare in Love) rightfully tapping into the feel and success of Danny Boyle's fabulous movie.
That ensemble cast is the film and the safe hands give it a nice warm and reassuring feel, as you would need if you were hot housed in an Indian rest home! One or too pithy quotes feel forced at times, as do some of the plot situations, and you can box tick a few of those quotes from many other films in this genre. There is a wonderful feeling you get when you first wake in an exotic country ready to explore and experience a new lifestyle and that does come through nicely here in the screenplay and appearance.
On the whole it's a gentle and traditional British movie that plays safe by concentrating on those 'Aint Half Hot Mum' stereotypes than attempting to have a say on cosmopolitan modern India today, and how much we really don't care for our old folks, which this film should have done more of as that is the point, right, hence the Care and NHS sector in chaos here in the U.K. NOBODY wants to wipe granny and granddads backside, even if you pay them, and so many more romantic books and films like this to push that horrible uncaring reality to the back of our minds are likely to be penned in the future.
Evelyn: Nothing here has worked out quite as I expected.
Muriel: Most things don't. But sometimes what happens instead is the good stuff.
-Behind the Story: lights, colors ad smiles.
Imdb.com - 7.2/10.0 (45,358votes)
Metacrtic.com - 62% critic's approval
Rottentomatos.com - 79% critic's approval
Film Com -'The old pros elevate Hotel's otherwise pat screenplay into that sweet spot where predictability fails to negate pleasure.
Film Comment Magazine -'It's a movie about finding purpose in life, late in life, that makes its point by first subjecting its characters to the most reductive grumpy-old-men/women shenanigans'.
Wall Street Journal -'They're stuck with a script, by Ol Parker, that's stuffed with contrivance and cliché, and doggedly repetitive'.
We Got This Covered -'The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a true example of an ensemble piece where a group of veteran actors show that they are just as good as they ever were'.
Movie Metropolis -'If you like films about travel, if you like watching film legends work together, you might want to check into "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel."
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The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Dame Judi Dench,
Dame Maggie Smith,
This film is about a group of British pensioners who take out a long term residence in a hotel in Jaipur in the belief that it is a retirement home. This hotel is of course a run down Indian Raj, which has architecture that is quite remarkable. Run by an enthusiastic but slightly incompetent local young man, with a great vision for the future, played by Dev Patel. The hotel is in serious trouble, and when Dev Patel's mother comes to shut the place down, a surprising turn of events starts to take place.
Dev Patel has a girlfriend who works in the Indian call centre. Her brother is against the love match and also runs the call center.
Judi Dench finding herself a recent widow takes the trip to Jaipur, and she who had never had to work before finds a job at a call center, yes the same one that Dev Patel's girlfriend works in.
There is a man (Tom Wilkinson) returning to his childhood home and hoping to meet up with his old love. I am never quite sure whether he is trying to rekindle it or absolve himself in some way.
A racist old woman, who hates black doctors, and has to journey to India and the hotel for treatment on her hip and for her recovery afterwards, this is played by, Dame Maggie Smith to perfection.
There is a mismatched couple, trying to hold on to a marriage that is in serious trouble, Bill Nighy who plays the henpecked husband who longs for happiness.
I enjoyed this movie a lot and as usual Bill Nighy steals the show again making me laugh out loud so many times.
This funny, well written, poignant film that portrays older people taking risks and making the most of their lives even when things don't quite work out exactly as shown on the hotel brochure. They all take a leap of faith and join the rush to get to this wonderful new retirement mecca, only to find it is not all it seems. Some wonderful turns of events occur to make this a well worthwhile watch.
We are taken through each new arrivals story and are shown how each of them cope with India. Some find out about the crowded markets and temples, one remains in the hotel room with a book too frightened or disgusted with the sights and sounds that assail her. Others go out in the search for a romantic interlude. The few that are left, are just trying to resolve themselves to the ailments that are now coming thick and fast. Some finding friends in the most unlikely places.
The sights and sounds of Jaipur were enchanting but above all it is the acting that is so amazing. All the actors are able to bring to life each carefully written character in such a way that it made you think the whole thing could have been a true story. It is great to see a film placing older actors in the limelight for a change and for this reason the film is a success at least for me.
I loved watching this film unfold and got lost in the story, I loved the way authentic sights and sounds were portrayed in this film and definitely think it deserves an award or two.
The acting was brilliant and the storyline I think I may have mentioned was for me believable and fun. I really hope they do not spoil it with a sequal as I believe this to be a true one of a kind.
This is the sort of film that warms the heart, a really easy watching film with uplifting performances from some brilliant actors. When I saw this, I knew it was something I would enjoy watching. Although it would be described as a chick flit it is not the usual 18-30's movie with typical storyline of girl and boy fall in love. It reminds me of Love Actually crossed with Calendar girls as you get to know details about each character and how they have managed to cross paths with each other.
==Plot... without giving too much away==
This film is about a group of retired people who are looking for a better life and decide that the Sunset Marigold hotel will be the perfect place to see out their days. When they arrive, they find the hotel is scruffy and run down. The manager is struggling to make ends meet whilst he is trying to prove to his parents that he can make it alone and make the hotel work. As the group get over the lack of facilities and poor conditions, they bond together, sharing stories and experiences. They discover the hidden beauty that India has to offer and learn from each other.
This film is beautiful if not a little bit too long. The plot is good and although you know exactly how the film is going to end, there are a few twists to the characters stories that will keep you entertained. At the end of the film I was left thinking about my own life and wondering what I would be like when I was older. These people come to the hotel trying to escape their own lives in the UK. They seem to be looking for something else and are hoping that the hotel will give them somewhere to wily away the hours until they pass on. I think this is why they are upset with the state of the hotel as they wanted it to fill a gap in their lives. What they didn't realise is that life is what you make of it and you really need to seize the day. Another theme I took from the film is that sometimes the best times you can have is getting to know someone else and listening to their stories; you get to learn new things but sometimes it also makes you thankful for what you have. As you learn more about the characters you really warm to them, even Muriel who is played by Maggie Smith despite her grouchiness and somewhat peevishness.
This cast is truly perfect and work together harmoniously. My favourite character by far is Sonny who is played by Dev Patel. He is absolutely outstanding in this role and certainly brings the humour into the film. To be brutally honest and it pains me to say this, that in the middle of the film it does become quite slow; it is Sonny and his quips that keep the film moving and the watcher entertained. The film follows each of the characters and allows us to form relationships with them, we get fed snippets of their lives but in places this is a bit dull. Judi Dench is her usual outstanding self and as she gets to know Douglas (played by the hilarious Bill Nighy) you really start rooting for their blossoming romance. Tom Wilkinson who plays a character called Graham gives one of the most poignant performances I have seen and out of all the characters, he moves me the most. I do not want to give away this characters story as I want you to experience it how it unfolds on the screen but it is a sad story that deals with prejudice and losing a loved one; but not in the conventional sense. It makes me think about the old saying, "Is it better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all?" At some points in Grahams story then I definitely think it would have been better for him to never have loved at all. The characters are superbly created if not slightly stereotypical, although from a easy watching film this is kind of what I expected.
What I liked best about the film is how the director uses colour. As the film begins they are brought to the hotel on a bus that is filthy and dirty but as they pass through the bustling and busy markets, there is a whole world of colour. The fruits on the market, the clothes and rugs; all these are bright and vivid. To me this means that life is out there if only they look deeper for it. The same theme runs in the hotel, yes the building is dirty with broken doors and crumbling brickwork but once they see past this, they will see the beautiful flowers blossoming in the garden. In my opinion the use of colour represents their journey of self discovery. We are fed with insights into old age where people have to confront loneliness, regrets and losing loved ones but as they move past the darkness, they discover that life is out there and they need to grasp it with both hands.
The music is the film is faultless and so it should be as it is by one of the most important composers in feature films of this century; Thomas Newman. He has scored the music for The Iron Lady, Shawshank Redemption and the Green Mile. The music is beautiful, uplifting in places and really dramatising the sadness in other places. It uses Indian musical instruments to really make this film feel authentic.
This is an easy to watch film that is enjoyable despite being quite predictable. It is bright and colourful with a sterling cast.
You can buy the DVD for £9.99 and features the bonus behind the story: lights, colours and smiles.
The British film industry may not be what it was, but there are still certain things it does well. Sweet thoughtful romantic comedies are still something of a forte for the British and if you want to see actors grow old gracefully, you need to be watching a British film. "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" is a case in point. Whereas aging American actors (well, plus our own Helen Mirren) try to rediscover their younger years in action films like "R. E. D." or "The Expendables", older British actors just take on gentler roles and take them on to the full.
Seven elderly people are headed for Jaipur in India, looking to escape their old lives in England and lured by the promises from the hotel website that it would make their golden years more golden. After 40 years of marriage, Evelyn recently lost her husband and has to sell their flat to cover the debts he built up that she knew nothing about. Having done nothing on her own, she is looking for a bit of adventure. Douglas and Jean are also experiencing money troubles, with Douglas having invested most of their retirement savings in a company run by their daughter and they are looking for a better quality of life than they can afford in England.
Graham is a High Court judge who grew up in India, but hasn't been back for four decades. Suddenly deciding to retire, he wants to make amends for something that happened years before. Muriel is heading to India for a hip replacement that can be achieved more quickly and cheaply in India than in England but, being horribly racist, isn't enthralled at the prospect. Norman and Madge are both looking not to spend their declining years alone; Madge wants a rich husband and Norman just wants someone to make his aging libido feel young again.
Their journey is paid for and arranged by the hotel and maybe early events should have given them an idea of what to expect. For when they arrive, having already experienced more of India than they originally planned, they find that the hotel is neither "best" nor "exotic". It is run by Sonny Kapoor, in a vain attempt to keep his father's memory alive, much to the despair of his mother. Short of both money and experience, Sonny's hotel is rather falling apart around him as he desperately tries to make a success of it so he can feel worthy to his girlfriend, Sunaina, another thing his mother doesn't approve of.
"The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" is for the most part a very sweet and gentle film and I enjoyed it very much. Perhaps due to the age of the majority of the characters, it's not a particularly fast moving film, yet somehow it manages to pack an awful lot into around two hours. Films like this can occasionally have a tendency to drag, but thanks to the relationships between characters and the huge variations in their approach to Indi and what they experience there, I never felt that this happened. The whole film is so well done that I've become tempted to pick up the novel it was based on, Deborah Moggach's "These Foolish Things", as novels often tend to be better than the films made from them and this film is so good, it's liable to be a belter of a novel.
At this point, I don't know whether the interaction between the characters is based from any script or from the novel it was made from, but it's so well done. Each is portrayed in so accurate a fashion that I couldn't help but look at some of them and think of people I know from my own life. The casual racism of Muriel reminded me of my Nan when she was still alive, whilst aspects of other characters pointed at my own mother and at least one of my Aunts. Virtually every aspect of human frailty is here, from Sonny's well meaning and enthusiastic descent into failure to Jean's attempts at social climbing, through Evelyn's determination to make the best of things and Douglas' frantic squirming under the thumb his wife has had him under for so long.
The script itself was very well done, with the interactions seeming quite real, even when the situations weren't. There were moments of real emotion, such as the first meeting between Norman and Carol where he became real for the first time. Douglas' slight showing off and joking around with Evelyn was as amusing as his eventual meltdown with Jean was inevitable. Graham's experience and wisdom were short lived, but the script allowed him some great moments of profundity. Muriel had some wonderfully cutting lines, which meant I couldn't help but smile even as she was delivering lines with such bigotry I knew they were wrong. Sonny's big speeches were perhaps a little too well planned to appear as spontaneous as they should have, but they were certainly very well written. There were a couple of old jokes in there, but given how many old jokes I end up retelling, even being half the age of some of the cast here, I can't be surprised by that.
The director, John Madden, has done a fantastic job here, but as he is also the director of "Shakespeare In Love", another film I have long admired, this is not a surprise. He handles a large cast very well, allowing each part of the story to be told and weaving them all together into a glorious whole. There was one character who seemed to be a little hard done by, as the story of Madge wasn't touched upon nearly as much as the others, but for the most part he keeps things going along very nicely by regularly switching between the characters and allowing their differing stories to shine through.
What was also interesting is that with such a varied and decorated ensemble cast, he is not afraid to allow India to speak for itself. At one point, as exasperated Jean asks Graham what he sees that she's not. His answer, "The lights, the colours, the smiles", almost matches the vision of the director. There are points here where he simply allows India to tell its own story, from the terror of the bus ride, to the peace of the areas outside the city, to the sheer noise and colour of Jaipur itself, particularly when there is a lot going on. He also allows the city to provide its own soundtrack, from the bustle of the festival to the sound of motorbikes and tuk-tuks to the music of the performers in a restaurant. This film is not one cheapened with a soundtrack, as it doesn't need to be.
Amidst all the colour and sounds of Jaipur, the cast put in marvellous performances, but that was no surprise given the experience and talent on show here. I particularly enjoyed Dame Maggie Smith's turn as Muriel, as the contrast between her racist, bitter character in England and her thawing later was so well done. Dame Judi Dench was rather lower key as Evelyn, but held things together wonderfully well and even in her narration was wonderfully calm and balanced, but fell apart emotionally when she had to. Perhaps the biggest surprise for me was Bill Nighy as Douglas, who is an actor who seems to ham it up wonderfully, such as in "Love, Actually" or "The Boat That Rocked" and it was interesting to see him playing second fiddle for a change, but he did it very well. Penelope Wilton's Jean hit just the right tone to contrast her husband and Tom Wilkinson's Graham was so well done that you couldn't help but feel sympathy for his situation. These seemingly laid back and effortless performances are then wonderfully balanced with Dev Patel's energy as Sonny and the whole thing is perfect.
Admittedly, the whole situation is a little farfetched and there are points at which characters are put into situations so contrived that you do become painfully aware that what you are watching here is fiction. Many of the relationships build a little too quickly than would be real and the changes of direction are frequently too swift. But I found it was easy to put these things behind me and I ended up wanting things to turn out for the best, even if that best was going to be slightly unrealistic when it all came to it. Although their situations aren't exactly real, many of the reactions to them seem quite plausible and that was what helped get me involved in the film.
Whilst the film is quite spectacular and should be watched by pretty much everyone, the DVD presentation is disappointing by comparison. The only extra feature, apart from the inevitable Digital Copy which is on most DVDs these days and which I've never managed to utilise, was a short piece called "Behind the Story: Lights, Colours and Smiles". This only runs for 2 ½ minutes and seems more like an infomercial than a feature, being an extended trailer with the cast, director and writer adding brief pieces to camera and making it all appears just like the sort of thing you see between films on the Sky Movies channels. It works well as an appetiser and certainly makes the film appear worth watching, but as a DVD feature it adds nothing once you've already seen the film.
Whilst the DVD may not be an essential purchase, the film itself feels to me like essential viewing. In a world full of films where everything explodes and the light and sound are the muzzle flashes of gunfire, this is a wonderful contrast. This is a film that allows both characters and setting to tell their own story and whilst it may be a little slow and boring to fans of action thrillers, for those who enjoy settling down and watching something thoughtful and character based, it is a sheer joy. Admittedly, you'll have to suspend some disbelief for some of the situations these characters find themselves in, but if you can achieve that, you'll be well rewarded. Being a new film, cheap copies are hard to come by, being £9.99 at Amazon and Play, but as this is a film I know I'll be watching over and over again, I don't feel that is too high a price to pay and if you can land a copy for the £3.00 or so I've seen on eBay, you'll be getting superb value. When it eventually arrives on the film channels, this is an absolutely essential watch for free, but I'm delighted to have not waited that long.
I knew when I went to the cinema that perhaps the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was not aimed at me. I am a 26 year old male and usually this sort of film would not appeal but it was Tuesday night and me and my partner always make sure we adhere to our date night. We had seen mostly everything else that was on and we didn't fancy much else so decided to watch this. My thoughts on this film give perfect adage to the view that it is often the films you don't expect to be great that you end up being the ones you enjoy most!
The film is essentially a tale of four pensioners who chose to spend their last few years away from the hustle, bustle and expense of England by heading to the land of India. After seeing an advert for the Marigold Hotel they chance their arm and start a new life, however all is not what it seems and on plot points I will say no more as to not spoil the story.
John Madden knows how to make a film pitched at this level and knows how to direct a cast of actors and that is what we have here. Judi Dench is at her very best as usual as she enters the twilight of her career playing character than has both a charm and a distance, something which Dench does better than most. Bill Nighy has never been my favourite actor but he is subdued and on form in this film and is perhaps the only likeable character of his I have taken to. Joined by a host of other famous and respected actors this is one of the finest ensemble casts put together in eyars and it works a treat.
At the core though, although the film is sweet and has its funny moments I found it harrowing as it is a tale of loneliness, old age and the troubles that go with it. From money worries to regrets to pining for youth this must be a hard watch for people approaching that age when life seems to be running away with you.
There is no doubt the setting is beautiful and credit to the cinematography here as we see beautiful shots of India and everything is treated with great care. From the tender moments to the humour everything is pitched just right giving the film a marvellous pacing and the story is always moving or developing in some way.
Coming out of the movie I felt a tinge of sadness but also my heart was warmed. There was a certain old school charm here that you just don't seem to get with other films these days and it tugs at the heart strings. Its simple, yes it is predictable but that is what you want from a film like this.
Its very human, very real and painfully blunt in the messages about getting old and aging. It does not beat about the bush, it does not sugar coat things and it hits a chord. Although it does give messages of hope and happiness the overall theme is one that you cannot escape from.
All in all although many people may feel The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is not for them, you need a heart of stone not be touched in someway by this. An excellent watch!
Also on CIAO
The early surprise hit of 2012 had nothing to do with superheroes, robots, aliens, fairytale, nor did it have much to do with sex and nudity (although, focus on the word "much"). Instead, John Madden's "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" is a warm, modest, couldn't-be-more-British production with a top-notch cast giving it their all. In an ensemble that is as star-studded and internationally acclaimed and respected such as this one, very little can go wrong to make the film absolutely unwatchable. Despite strong competition from louder, bigger-budgeted pictures (mainly from a little something called "Avengers Assemble"), this has already grossed more than 40 million dollars in the States alone, and it is being hailed as a victory for the oldies, as it is increasingly rare to find a film of simple, pure, well-intentioned drama as well as some quality humour delivered so outstandingly by an admirable cast.
So lots of things must have gone right; and the film picks up with a brisk pace, introducing the audience to seven English retirees who all deserve some sort of a break from their everyday challenging lives. Evelyn (Judi Dench) has recently lost her husband but worsening her grief is what her husband has left behind for her to deal with: debts. As a housewife who has never had a job, she finds herself lost and trapped, escaping to India in the hopes of finding a better future there. Douglas and Jean (Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilton) are an elderly married couple with limited financial backing, ever since they invested in their daughter's internet company that never became anything to turn a profit. Jean is also struggling to accept her ageing self, and to find more joy in their lives, they too decide to take off. Muriel (Maggie Smith) is a bitter, racist ex-housekeeper who has no friends or family - needing a hip replacement, she is sent off to India to avoid delays in her procedure. Graham (Tom Wilkinson), is a judge who decides one day to suddenly retire. He heads to India, to rediscover something he had left behind many years ago. Norman (Ronald Pickup) is someone who refuses to acknowledge his age, and that younger women do not desire older men with no obvious life or financial accomplishments. After a string of failed advances towards ladies young enough to be his granddaughters, he hops on a plane to India, hoping for further more fruitful possibilities. Madge (Celia Imrie), after unsuccessful marriages and grown children she doesn't quite feel too strongly attached to, sets out on an adventure of her own, seeking a new man in her life to have fun with. She is looking for good-looking, wealthy businessmen, and believes India will be full of them.
Different characters, different baggage, different goals - and they all end up in the titular "Best Exotic Marigold Hotel." The brochures and hotel's website guarantees exactly what is suggested in the name; the absolute best, beautifully exotic hotel. So imagine everyone's shock and horror as they find out the hotel is nothing but a run-down, dusty, messy, chaotic hostel type of accommodation run by the hilariously incompetent Sonny (Dev Patel). He is enthusiastic in running the hotel, and tries his best to attend to his guests' needs, but even his valiant efforts cannot prevent the seven English guests from figuring out this place is a dud and that essentially they've been cheated.
Most settle in, because for most guests, the trip wasn't exactly about the hotel itself, but what they had come to discover in such a faraway country. It's the smothering, rather annoying Jean (Wilton) who refuses to go with the flow, and is insistent on being a couch-potato, never accompanying her husband on sight-seeing or soaking up the new culture. Wilton is an effective pain-in-the-arse character, a very much likely and frequent portrayal of a difficult customer but she has the skill to never overdo her slightly neurotic outbursts. She does have moments of genuinely sympathy-arousing scenes, showing her heartache and struggle with the life she has led so far, and how very little satisfaction she finds from the place she is currently in.
More drama arises from Graham (Wilkinson), Evelyn (Dench) and Douglas (Nighy). Graham has a long-kept secret, a mistake he made in the past, which he has never shared with anyone in his life, and before it's too late he is determined to somehow make amends. This plot development is a particularly stirring one, no matter how far-fetched it may seem, Wilkinson drives this strand with a touching guilty conscience as well as a moving resolution. Evelyn makes a bold attempt to start a career, and she does find something at a local call centre. Using her wisdom and warmth to her advantage, Evelyn coaches the younger recruits on how one should address clients on the telephone. It's a role the ever-so divine and talented Dench can bring to life, and it's also her developing friendship with Douglas that also brings out something charming in the slightly awkward but always lovable pair.
Muriel, Madge and Norman are there largely for comedic purposes, and although the outrageously racist and offensive remarks uttered so naturally by Smith adds a touch of noticeable dark comedy, there is a lighter, more screwball type that comes out of Madge and Norman. Their numerous unsuccessful plights in search of romance lead to expectedly hilarious consequences, and it's good to see that it's not just immature, sexually charged teenagers who make grave mistakes and errors in trying to woo the opposite sex.
But despite everything, the film is far from perfect. The individual storylines all have something important and poignant to tell, with veteran actors perfectly doing what they have done best for many years prior to this, the narrative feels so jumbled, and whilst focusing on one character, the rest of the cast feels lost and forgotten in the mix, abruptly coming back to focus on someone else after wrapping up one of many storylines. And in aiming to have the audience reach for the tissue box, Madden does inevitably rely on one too many highly unconvincing turns of events to make everything fit seamlessly. The cheesy, heavily dramatic scenes will no doubt make certain members in the audience cringe, as will the repetitive use of "everything will be all right" philosophy told endlessly by Patel. Sonny is the character whose piece struggles to fit into the picture, as the youngest son of a hard-hitting mother (scene-stealing Lillete Dubey) who is consistently trying to impress her and make something meaningful happen on his own. He also has a girlfriend, someone his mother obviously disapproves of, and it's the standard story told time and time again, shown no better here, despite Patel's amusing turn with his well put-on thick Indian accent.
It jumps around all over the place, and despite the beautiful colours and images of India captured brilliantly in its luminous prime by Madden, the film never flows smoothly, and does go on for too long. It's a story of redemption, rediscovery, rebirth etc...which although fascinating, does get tiresome. This is a feel-good film for sure, and very few will come out of this in a bad mood, but as a piece of dramatic storytelling, there are many faults and lacks anything ground-breaking to be considered a Brit classic.
This is a review only of the film as seen in the cinema as it's a current release so I can't comment on any DVD extras etc.
Directed by John Madden.
Starring: Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson , Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton, Celia Imrie, Ronald Pickup, Dev Patel
12A certificate and 124 minutes long.
Is this an enjoyable movie?
I have to say it depends who you speak to. I really loved it. Mr T-o-T found it totally boring 'waiting for the story to begin' and fell asleep, but then he is more an action movie chap.
It's a rewarding and enjoyable film if you'd like a gentle story with a bit of humour, a little bit of an edge here and there, the chance to see some of our finest British actors delighting the audience, sumptuous landscapes and settings, and like the sort of story where you are interweaving several characters lives rather than having a straightforward A-Z plot.
The hotel was the biggest star to me - I'd be there like a shot if it were for real. It redefines shabby chic or faded colonialism back to the original 'grotty but characterful' idea - dusty, mouldy, decrepit but oh how I want to live in one of those 'shacks on the roof'. The characters, while dismayed at first, come to appreciate the charms of the place and its manager Sonny, played by Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire).
Each of the characters has a reason to abandon the UK at their retirement - and in most cases they are grasping at the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel as a straw to rescue them from what has gone wrong in their lives. Some of the characters are not very likeable, and all the more realistic for that, and they all struggle to find their way in their new Indian environment.
In a way they all have a quest, and the only thing that disappointed slightly about the film was the fact that they all eventually found what they were looking for, although in some cases it was more a case of finding what they needed rather than what they wanted. So it was a little predictable.
It was easy to tell that this was adapted from a novel as it had a very chapter-like structure and I would now like to read the book as well.
*This is of course a film only review - the film only came out a few days ago. So no idea what the 'extras' might one day be.*
~ Book Anxiety~
Whenever I learn that one of my favourite books has been made into a film I get rather nervous. Will the film live up to my memories of the book? Will it ever satisfy me when I'm going to grumble if it's TOO close to the book (couldn't they have a bit more imagination?) and I will rage if it takes too many liberties with the story? I remember the first (and in my case last) Harry Potter film which was just too perfect that it put me off and I was in a temper for days after Vikas Swarup's wonderful 'Q&A' was destroyed to make the very popular 'Slumdog Millionaire'. So how was I going to react to Deborah Moggach's 'These Foolish Things' being adapted to create 'The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel'? Knowing that the cast included dames Judi Dench and Maggie Smith as well as the always smooth and classy Bill Nighy, I was reassured that surely they wouldn't have agreed to do it if the script was a stinker.
~ The basic plot~
Seven pensioners, each with different reasons for going, find themselves on a plane travelling to India to stay at the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - a retirement hotel for the 'elderly and beautiful' which is a pretty good way to describe these folk. As you'd expect, there are some differences between the brochure and the reality, and the hotel is far from the luxury accommodation they've been led to expect. Some adapt well to their new environment whilst others can't stand the food and are scared to leave the hotel. New friendships form, old relationships come under pressure and pre-conceived ideas are challenged. One of the pensioners is in search of his past whilst others are looking for their futures and some are just content to live for the day. One gets a new job, two go looking for wealthy partners, and one sits quietly watching everything that happens around her.
The hotel is a mess and the hotelier needs more money to realise his plans and ambitions but his mother and brothers don't believe he can do it and the financial backer he's talking to is not convinced by the business plan. The hotelier's mother wants him to give up this 'nonsense' and return to Delhi with her and make a good (arranged) marriage, whilst he wants to find the courage to tell his girlfriend that he loves her. It's classic British situation comedy - put a bunch of interesting people in an interesting place and poke fun at their reactions. If you're in search of the Merchant Ivory image of India, look away now.
~The Magnificent Seven~
Judi Dench, reassuringly more wrinkled than the ludicrously airbrushed publicity posters suggest, plays Evelyn, recently widowed and surprised to discover that her late husband's secrets included such significant debts that she has to sell their home to cover them. Maggie Smith plays Muriel, cast aside by the family who employed her to run their lives as housekeeper, nanny and surrogate parent or grandparent. Muriel needs a hip replacement and her hospital suggests outsourcing the op to India - something which may require you to suspend disbelief for a little while. Muriel doesn't like foreigners and isn't afraid to say so.
Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilton play Douglas and Jean, married for nearly 40 years they've long ago run out of things to say to each other but, after investing all their savings in their daughter's internet business, the nest egg has gone and savings have to be made. Tom Wilkinson plays Graham, a high court judge who grew up in India and is in search of his past. Celia Imrie plays to her eternally classy 'posh totty' stereotype as Madge, fed up with babysitting the grandchildren and looking for a wealthy man. When her daughter asks her how many husband's she's had she retorts "Including my own?" And the final of the seven pensioners is Norman, played by Ronald Pickup, whose reasons for wanting to go to India are never really clarified.
If you've read the book, the lies told to get Norman to go to India are fascinating but the changes that take place between the book and the film include assigning ownership of the hotel to an entirely different person and with that change we lose the reason for Norman being there and his entire story is 'lost in translation'. I didn't mind too much because on paper he was a thoroughly unpleasant farting, burping, masturbating sex-fiend whereas the screen Norman is a likeable rogue. Similarly I didn't get in a tizzy about the location of the hotel being moved from the more believable setting of Bangalore (where the climate is much more manageable for the elderly Brits but the city is ugly and unphotogenic) to the much more visually compelling but much more unlikely setting of Jaipur, a hot, dirty and very smelly though charming place.
What I find almost impossible to forgive is the cynical and inappropriate casting of Dev Patel as Sonny, the hotelier, a simpering blithering nincompoop whose casting seems to be entirely about attracting a younger audience and fans of Slumdog Millionaire and Skins. He is ridiculously miscast as the incompetent but enthusiastic young hotelier with big ideas and no respect for the truth. Every time he was on screen I couldn't wait for him to get off again and to maybe take some acting lessons from the more experienced cast members. Also intensely irritating are his scenes with his girlfriend Sunaina (Tena Desai) where they snog openly in the street and discuss their sex-life. Those scenes whilst mild when viewed with European sensibilities will not make it past the Indian censors and just wouldn't happen in a land where such PDAs (public displays of affection) are entirely frowned upon.
~Things I noticed~
At times the action moves too fast for the camera and perhaps I was sitting too close to the screen at our local cinema because at times things were blurred - presumably this was artistically intended. I'm not familiar with the director John Madden although I've read he directed Shakespeare in Love. Some of the panoramic shots of the city and of the countryside with a train running through the countryside are particularly beautiful but for the most part, he's avoided too much of the soppy sentimental shots lingering on poor shrivelled locals that too many films set in India seem to depend upon. I didn't really notice too much cinematic trickery - I was too caught up in the plot. I was distracted (as I am every time it happens) when characters go to Stansted Airport (apparently the only one that lets film makers film there) to catch flights to places you can't possibly reach from there, and when they enter the airport through the arrivals door rather than departures. It's a minor niggle and one that tees me off frequently when they do the same thing on Holby City or Casualty.
~ Enough about the cast, what about the real STAR?~
The hotel could be considered the non-speaking star of the show - old, battered and decaying, it's the perfect architectural expression of its residents' conditions. But no, that's not the star I'm thinking of. INDIA is the star of this show, most specifically Jaipur and surrounding bits of Rajastan including Udaipur, a town they've managed to shoe-horn in for some beautiful lake-side scenes. I believe the cast were staying in Udaipur at the spectacular Oberoi Udaivilas, a rather swankier place than the Marigold. Shots of Rajastan looking 'elderly and beautiful' abound and contrast with occasional forays into the high-tech call centre world which represents the other side of the Indian cliché.
India looks gorgeous, vibrant and colourful and - aside from the absence of smells - it's a pretty fair reflection of what the real place is like. Personally I rather like Jaipur but it's one of the smelliest and dirtiest cities in India. I remember walking through a market and watching pigs stealing the entrails from a butcher's stall and the fish stall changing colour when the stall-holder waved away the flies. I like the way that the characters get jostled and hassled and made to feel uncomfortable - India's not a country you can tidy up just by booking with Cox and Kings. Some of the actors have gone on record saying they found the place fascinating but couldn't be paid enough to go back again.
~In the Eye of the Beholder~
Age, like beauty, might just be in the eye of the beholder. It's not often that older actors get the chance to be the stars of the show - certainly not more than one or two in any film. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel has the air of having been a film on which the cast had a heck of a lot of fun and it's truly one that tells us that life begins at 60 or maybe 70 or whenever you want it to. Not all the endings are happy but that's life (or death) and all entirely fitting within the context. I found myself looking at Judi Dench and thinking that no matter how old and wrinkled she gets, she's still a gorgeous looking woman and Bill Nighy is pretty 'hot stuff' for an old fella too. I can't help but think Judi Dench probably wasn't expecting to get a romantic leading lady role at the age of 77 but she's a natural. Maggie Smith proves she can do working class 'racist' just as well as being the Grande Dame of Downton Abbey or the dour Miss Jean Brodie and Celia Imrie does well to stick to type - when the world loves you as posh and sexy, you may as well just roll with it.
This is a light-hearted film that's full of warmth and humour and ultimately rather predictable, though none the worse for that. Plot wise, it lacks the depths and the twists and turns of Deborah Moggach's original plot for 'These Foolish Things' and I do wonder what readers who come to the book from the film will think when they realise how different they are. However, whilst I give the book five stars, the film gets 4 - but only if I can pretend that the bits with Dev Patel aren't really there. Sticking him in just to attract a younger audience is pure sell-out and adds nothing to the story.