REVIEW: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Your first thought at seeing this review is: “Why on earth is ComicMix reviewing this?” First of all, we’re a pop culture site; but more importantly, this is a film filled with marvelous British actors we have enjoyed in countless genre offerings. They deserve to be seen in just about anything they do and when you put them all together, it’s a British version of The Expendables, the geriatric edition. When you have Judi Dench (the current Bond films), Maggie Smith (Harry Potter, et. al.), Bill Nighy (the Pirates of the Caribbean series), and Tom Wilkinson (Batman Begins) acting together, you sit down and pay attention.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a charming, well-written, well-acted film that is actually about something. It was directed by John Madden (Shakespeare in Love) and based on Deborah Moggach’s novel These Foolish Things. The cast is fortunate to still be working, but many of their peers – and many of us – are not working as we age, and our future has come into question. The film follows these Brits as they decide to relocate from their homeland to a more affordable retirement community in India. They were suckered into believing the glossy brochure, without stopping to investigate. The reality, of course, is far worse than imagined and now they have to deal with the decisions they have come to make.
The film, now out on DVD from 20th Century Home Entertainment, plays things with a light touch while the subject matter is fairly heavy and resonates with our aging elders here, too. There’s Dench as a recently widowed woman who finds 21st Century technology baffling, and Wilkinson, who lived in India as a young man and has desired for a return. Nighy and Penelope Wilton (Shaun of Dead) blew their retirement savings on funding their daughter’s failed start-up so make this move out of desperation. And there’s Smith, playing a racist who only came to India for a quick and cheap hip replacement operation. It’s not all bleak as Ronald Pickup plays a retiree hoping to score with some of his compatriots, his ardor still running hot.
Sharp contrasts are drawn between the characters and their motivations for making such a major move so late in life. How they react to the decrepit hotel, run by the charming, enthusiastic and overwhelmed Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire) propels much of the story. Jaipur, where the story takes place, is beautiful and squalid, a composite of modern day India.
The film follows the characters and over time we watch some adjust, some struggle, and many fight. It’s a school of fish out of water, prompting a lot of cultural miscues and comedy, but it overlays a poignancy that this stellar cast projects in a nice, subtle way. They learn things from the local people, and each other, while they also teach Sonny a thing or two, letting him finally take the belated steps towards a mature adulthood.
The film has its predictable moments but you’re smiling through most this and you want a happy ending for all concerned, which you (for the most part) get. It’s immensely satisfying and worth a look.
The transfer to Blu-ray is good, not great, and has fine audio. There are a handful of perfunctory extras that are too short for the subject matter, such as Behind the Story: Lights, Colors and Smiles (2:34) and Casting Legends (3:55). The exotic and picturesque locales get their due in Welcome to the “Real” Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2:55) and Trekking to India: “Life is Never the Same” (2:45).