Director: John Madden
Starring: Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Dev Patel
Release Date: Out now
Set in India and directed by John Madden (Shakespeare in Love), The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel opens with a bleak outlook on retired life in England for a star-studded cast including Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson and Maggie Smith. The characters decide to abandon their otherwise comfortable lives for India, where Sonny, played by Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire), runs ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ – an apparently first class and lavish hotel suitable for elderly people.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is, at times, hilarious as well as heartbreakingly sad as the stories of the eclectic group of OAPs unfold. The multitude of characters would seem to make the film confusing, but a few characters soon begin to become prominent. While Judi Dench (Quantum of Solace) is the narrator (and her story is central to the film), it is Tom Wilkinson’s (Michael Clayton) role that really stands out. His character, Graham, grew up in India and has now returned to track down the man with whom he had a love affair almost forty years ago. Wilkinson’s brilliantly convincing portrayal as both an eminent judge and a man in love leaves you constantly willing his story to return to the screen.
Maggie Smith (the Harry Potter series) on the other hand, plays Muriel, who is largely on screen for comic relief and is also, unfortunately, a source of elderly stereotypes. She plays a racist, bitter old woman feeling displaced by society, forced to go to India for a hip replacement. Although her interactions with Sonny do provide some humour and while her xenophobia does recede, her story is quite predictable and becomes increasingly tiresome as the film progresses. Meanwhile, the subplot involving Sonny and a love interest is a deviation from the narratives of the retirees and the central issues dealt with, yet manages to never seem displaced from the rest of the film.
Although the film has a great cast, it could have been better served with fewer characters and a deeper interest in mining its stronger stories for all of their dramatic and humorous potential. Despite dealing with the serious issue of the marginalisation of the elderly in contemporary Britain, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is ultimately a light-hearted affair and a film it is impossible not to be charmed by.
In a Nutshell: A delightfully charming film that is both satisfyingly feel-good and heartbreakingly poignant, although undermined by unnecessary stereotyping.