Review: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2012)

“Everything will be all right in the end… if it’s not all right then it’s not the end.”

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel 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. – ROTTEN TOMATOES

Watching The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a bit like sitting under a nice blanket, on a deck chair, at a picturesque beach, drinking a warm milky cup of tea. The plot is that a group of British pensioners, all for their own individual reasons, head to a retirement home in India, the hotel of the title. Once there couples break apart, old friends meet and, some might say inevitably, not everyone makes it to the end credits. The plot is incredibly predictable, but whilst watching TBEMH (Of which is will now be known!) I laughed more than I had done for a long time, and felt a huge comfortability amongst the characters, and the performers we have all grown up with.

The cast is good, and all fill their roles well; Bill Nighy especially continues his bid to become the coolest man on the planet, and Ronald Pickup is a discovery. Dev Patel shows a huge amount of likeable charisma and walks that fine line between charming and annoying well, always staying on the right side. In the battle of the Dames, for my money Maggie Smith comes off winning; she can move so easily between comedy and poignant drama, and the audience moves with her.

Ol Parker’s script is good on the jokes, and after a difficult 15 minutes when the OAP’s first make it to the hotel and the script slows down to a snail’s pace, each character finds their trajectory and the pace picks up nicely. The issue of social living conditions in India and its representation in TBEMH (mostly the complete absence of any poverty in the frame) is bound to come up in any review of the film. A nice plot line between Maggie Smith’s racist old lady and an ‘Untouchable’ hotel maid is set up but never fully followed through, an area I would have been very interested in knowing more about.

All the films promotional material displays the tagline “From the director of Shakespeare in Love”, and having a good look at director John Madden’s career it does look like this was his last half decent work. Here Madden directs with a steady if slightly dull hand, nicely balancing out each characters screen time and letting the performers get on and do their thing! British audiences love a feel good, home-grown hit and word of mouth is a tool to never be underestimated; a score of British films from Four Weddings and a Funeral through to The Kings Speech can prove that. I can see this film becoming a huge hit, as audience’s members take their friends and family to see it with them a second time, and deservedly so

I saw TBEMH in a packed Sunday afternoon screening; the audience laughed, and I think I even heard a few pointed gasps. I hate the term feel good hit since it is used so often for films without any thought to their content (hello Slumdog Millionaire!), but that phrase aptly describes TBEMH; sometimes its just nice to see good people winning for a change, or at least survive to the end credits with their self-esteem and courage to go on intact. This must be what Americans feel like when they listen to Bruce Springsteen albums!

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