It’s summertime, and that means one thing and thing only. It’s time to hit the theaters! Let’s face it, what better way to wile away a few hours, than being in an air conditioned movie theater, watching a good quality story on screen.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is that quality film you are looking for. The story revolves around this old yet majestic hotel that has lost its charm over time. While the hotel is portrayed as a palace in the brochure given to a group of British retirees , the actual structure would fail building tests here in the states, and most likely be deemed unsafe property. But structural codes, and cordial appearances don’t mean much in the hustle and bustle of a country with a population boasting 1,205,073,612 individuals. Instead The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is an affordable, and exciting venture that catches the interest of a quirky group, who are facing various problems as retirement approaches.
The films strongest character is India itself. Outside the stereotype of crowded streets, poverty filled slums, and a general sense of chaos, Director John Madden, and writer Ol Parker have captured the cultural essence of India. The positives outweigh the negatives, and while the Indian cast itself is not the prominent group in the movie, they are cast based on cultural infusion.
The films English cast is superb, and while all have different personalities, majority start to see the light through the eyes of India’s splendid culture, and environment.
Judi Dench plays Evelyn Greenslade, a smart and ambitious woman who is going through a very difficult time in her life. Evelyn feels a sense of loneliness, and lack of purpose in life, yet has so much to offer the world. She is an objective woman, and has all intentions of helping the people around her. As the story progresses, Evelyn explains how broke she really is. So broke, that the people she shows her outpouring support to, realize she’s the one that’s needed the support all along. Dench is in the business of acting, and she does it with great ease in this film.
The two time Oscar nominee Tom Wilkinson plays Graham Dashwood. Graham is no stranger to India. He claims that his best years actually took place during his time in India, before he moved to England with his parents. Graham being the veteran of the group goes on secret trips while the rest struggle to adapt in this foreign country. Graham is by far the most affectionate character. He’s sound, and stable. He has a goal to accomplish, but nobody in the group can figure out what that goal is. Graham leads the audience to curiosity, until finally the truth is revealed.
Bil Nighy plays Douglas Ainslie, a kind and faithful husband who hides his true feelings. Douglas and his wife have been married for nearly 40 years, and while things seem normal, the couple has clearly drifted apart, but are doing everything they can to keep the building from crumbling. Douglas ventures out to temples, and other cultural monuments in India, and genuinely loves every single second of his adventure. His wife on the other end hates the hotel with a passion, and isn’t interested in venturing out like the rest of the group. While Douglas is having the time of his life, he is also drifting farther away from his longtime wife.
A picture speaks a thousand words. Well Penolope Wilton plays Jean Ainslie Douglas’ nuisance of a wife. A very insecure lady who just wants things her way. Jean is by far the “chosen one” in the film as far as accepting her new surroundings. Not everyone can be happy right? Well Jean is the definition of unhappy. She hates India from the start, and has no intention of giving India a chance. While the rest of the clan explores, she sulks. While her husband does everything in his power to make her happy, she puts a lull on his efforts. Jean stays consistent the entire film, and the frustration finally kicks in. At the end of the day, Jean Ainslie lets the inevitable course of truth, take control.
The best back story in the film is played by Maggie Smith. Maggie plays Muriel Donnelly a grumpy “racist” who is in need of hip surgery. The predicament she finds herself in is one of financial significance. Muriel refuses to trust a doctor outside of her race, and she’s not shy to proclaim that. She’s so outlandishly reserved, that no one really wants to help her. Muriel realizes it’s much cheaper, and faster to have a hip surgery in India, that she is forced to join the rest of the crew on this adventure. Keep in mind culture is not her strong suite…… and well India is filled with it. Muriel struggles to adapt, but her story is the most prolific, and commanding when it’s all said and done. Maggie Smith is a two time Oscar winner, and she infuses so much comedy into this heartfelt film. It’s a great role, and very memorable as the self proclaimed “scene stealer.”
Ronald Pickup plays Norman Cousins, the perverted old man. I literally could stop right here with my description on this character but Norman is a lot of fun on screen. He infuses the “age is just a number,” theory throughout the film. His mission in this movie is to have just one amazing one night stand. Does he get what he wants? It’s a comical portrayal, and very light-hearted. Norman is the one man in the group that has no reservations about the situation he’s been put into.
Celia Imrie plays Madge Hardcastle, the character that can easily be forgotten, because the emphasis is sparse. Madge is a single woman who is seeking a rich Indian man who can support her. Essentially a “gold-digger” roaming the rich clubs in India. Comical at times, but a fairly simplistic character who trudges along with the rest. While she doesn’t believe in much, she is pleasantly surprised at how honesty can lead to a successful relationship, not just money.
Dev Patel of Slumdog Millionaire fame, plays the quirky Sonny Kapoor. Sonny runs The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and is willing to do whatever it takes to keep it alive. Sonny’s dad who founded the hotel passed away leaving equal portions of the property to his three sons. Sonny is the only son that sees the hotel as a prized possession, while the other two have no interest in maintaining this run down structure. Sonny’s mom also sees no potential, and warns Sonny about how this hotel was wrong from the start, and that his dad was a fool to keep it alive. The great part about Sonny’s character is his ambition and passion to keep this hotel alive. The film also introduces the generational gap between son and mother. While arranged marriages still exist in India, the modernization of them is still a rocky road between parent and child. Dev does a good job keeping his optimism up and somehow transforms this gimmick in a brochure, into a magical location that revives a group’s lives in different ways.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is in select theaters now, but will be seeing a wide release soon. If you are looking for a feel good story, with beautiful shots of India, this movie is sure to put a smile on your face. The story is catered to the older demographic, but the message is universal.
My 1-10 scale= 8