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United Kingdom 2012
Directed by
John Madden
110 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Sharon Hurst
3 stars

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Synopsis: Seven British pensioners, (one couple and five singles) who do not know each other quit the UK to retire in a hotel in Jaipur, India,  enticed by promises of luxury at a bargain price. The hotel’s young owner, Sonny (Dev Patel,) is determined to restore the hotel to its former glory, and while the retirees are initially dismayed that the hotel doesn’t live up to its advertising hype, they soon settle into their new life, find unexpected charms in their new home and friendship with each other.

The cream of British acting is in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Judi Dench is Evelyn, trying to retire on the cheap so that she can pay off her deceased husband’s debts]. Tom Wilkinson is Graham, a retired lawyer, who is returning to the country where he spent his childhood and to try to reconnect with someone once very important to him. Madge (Celia Imrie) is still flirtatious and possibly in line for an umpteenth husband, whilst Norman (Ronald Pickup) is looking for a good roll in the hay. Muriel (what film of this nature is complete without Maggie Smith?) is a racist, small-minded curmudgeon who has been sent to a fancy Indian hospital for a fast-tracked hip replacement. And lastly, Doug and Joan (the irrepressible Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilton) are a couple nearly 40 years together, hoping for something better in their twilight years than a cramped retirement village.

As this assortment of lives is thrown together, various liaisons and friendships form and evolve, as does each individual’s ability to adjust to a new and astonishing environment. Some will rail against the impositions of living in a run-down hotel, others will see it as an adventure. The noise, bustle and near-chaos of the country is captured in all its riotous, colourful glory, whilst the optimism of its people is personified in Sonny. This lad can certainly talk a pig’s ear into a silk purse, and when it comes to love. and fighting his Mamajee on his choice of a wife, (the lovely Tena Desae). he’s the face of new-wave India. He’s also full of the typical Indian smooth-talking, which results in many promises that are never brought to fruition.

Patel, much awarded for Slumdog Millionaire (2008), is a delight in this cheery role and his youthful enthusiasm for his elderly clients is uplifting. No need to say that each of the aging actors are just right in their roles, and how nice to see a film that doesn’t patronise the aged, but presents them with a measure of depth, spontaneity and joie de vivre.

Madden, best known for Shakespeare In Love (1998) directs with a sure hand whilst the cinematography captures every beauteous element amongst the chaos, grime and dilapidation of the country.  The film sits firmly in the British style of feel-good film but with its acting royalty and spirit of conviviality it entertained me greatly and for anyone with a weak spot for India it should definitely be seen.




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