A kind of Expendables for the older generation, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is bound to rake in the box office dollars if only because of its expansive high calibre cast. Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Penelope Wilton and Ronald Pickup have several centuries' experience between them, so it's safe to say that the performances are in safe hands.
Each of these older English folk have found themselves at the crumbling titular hotel in India for their various personal reasons. Douglas (Nighy) and Jean (Wilton) have moved there because they recently lost their personal savings and can't afford retiree accommodation back home, Muriel (Smith) is getting a hip operation done in a local hospital, Norman (Pickup) just wants to get laid, recently widowed Evelyn (Dench) has decided to attempt an independent lifestyle she's never before experienced and Graham (Wilkinson) is returning to the place of his birth after spending decades in the UK. To top it all off, the hotel's manager, Sonny (Dev Patel) straining under the yoke of his domineering mother, who's convinced that he's running the establishment into the ground.
The film masterfully juggles a huge number of plots, and it is to the film's credit that it never gets confusing nor does it feel to cramped. Of course, as with all films containing a multitude of storylines, some are better than others. At the top end would be Graham's touching story of lost love, whilst Muriel's transformation from racist cow to a somewhat decent person doesn't feel at all organic. Whilst it's 124 minutes long, there sheer multitude of stories means that it never feels slothful, and the cinematography, sound design and editing do a decent job whilst managing side-step being too much of a travel brochure for India.
The Best Exotic Great Excellent Exclusive Adjective Adjective Marigold Hotel does have some rather bigger problems, but these only really exist outside of the film itself. It is a film about middle class white people going over to India where they get to be rich among the poor. The foul odour of imperialism isn't too far off, yet the film manages to avoid it for the most part by simply not being concerned about the country in which it's set at all. First and foremost it's about a group of people nearing the end of their lives and looking back on what they've done; the setting is for the most part immaterial.
An absolute crowd-pleaser, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel ticks all the boxes when it comes to a mature yet easygoing multi-narrative drama. The high standard of acting from all concerned means that its flaws fade into the background. At the very least, it's good to see that not all mainstream released movies are aimed solely at teenagers.
Review by Stuart Wilson, 2nd May 2012Hoopla Factor:
PS: During one particularly emotional speech towards the end of the film, the word 'fuck' was muted out. I can't remember ever seeing this happen in the cinema. I'm not sure which country's classification board the studio was trying to appease, but it's at best gauche and at worst spoils the performance of the actor involved, and took me completely out of the film for that moment.