Buncha ol’ Brits go to India to retire. Things don’t turn out how they planned. The end.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel For The Elderly And The Beautiful is the tale of, lessee, Tom Wilkinson, Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton, Ronald Pickup and Celia Imrie who end up at the misleadingly named (and Photoshopped) hotel.
This isn’t a zany comedy so there really isn’t much wrong with the hotel. It’s missing a door here and there and the phones don’t work, but the main tension comes from these Brits adapting to their decidedly foreign surroundings.
And, actually, if they were the sorts of whiners that complained for a whole movie, it would be quite unpleasant indeed. In fact, Penelope Wilton’s character is exactly that sort of person and is entirely unpleasant for the whole movie. (I know Wilton best from her wonderful turn in Shaun of the Dead as Shaun’s mom, in which she was also married to Bill Nighy!)
Wilkinson is the fish out of the–er…in the most water? He’s the least out of water? That is to say, he’s the mot at home in India, since he lived there many years ago. He’s returned to look for a lost love.
Celia Imrie and the aptly named Ronald Pickup are there to find new love. Well, Imrie to lure a rich husband and Pickup to have one last memorable fling.
Judi Dench is there because she’s newly widowed who has discovered her husband had blown all their money. Rather than burden her children she opts to find a new job in India. I’d say she’s probably the main character.
Nighy and Wilton are there because after a lifetime of civil service, the retirement home is basically chock full of assistive devices for their decline. (They’re a little young for this but I would imagine their retirement homes, like the civil service are all one-size-fits-all.) They’re lured to India by the promise of something better.
Maggies Smith’s situation is kind of interesting. She’s a lovable racist who ends up in India because the National Health Service is outsourcing some surgeries.
Tena Desae and Dev Patel provide the love interest, as the young lovers whose dreams are being crossed by Patel’s mother (Lilette Dubey), who’s also trying to put the kosh on the hotel.
The film is directed by John Madden, whose ridiculously feted Shakespeare in Love earned him the enmity of a nation and proved how powerful Miramax’s PR department was, keeps a similarly light touch on the proceedings, making the two hours breeze by rather quickly.
This is not a high-octane adrenaline-fueled thrill-ride, of course. My mother referred to it as “nice” in a way that suggested she was bored. But The Flower and The Boy both ranked it in the “ok, pretty good” strata.
I seem to have enjoyed it more than they did. It was predictable in the way that these movies tend to be. I mean, it’s clear from the trailers who is going to hook up with whom. And you know one of them is going to die; the movie even acknowledges that with “Well, you get a bunch of old people together and…” although, really, in modern terms, they’re not that old. Dench is the oldest, at 77 and Celia Imrie is a virtual spring chicken who will turn 60 this year.
But I think that’s okay: To complain about it is akin to complaining about a romantic comedy where the couple get together at the end. The execution is skillful and the cast is top-notch.