The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel doesn’t have the catchiest title I have ever heard. However, based on the novel by Deborah Moggach, the film stars the ‘crème de la crème’ of our favourite geriatric British film and TV actors, and is directed by John Madden (Shakespeare In love, Mrs Brown and Captain Corelli’s Mandolin).
After the phenomenal success of Slumdog Millionaire, it was inevitable that at some point mainstream British cinema would be return to India. The premise of the film is that seven elderly people decide to up-sticks from the UK and go to India, moving into a hotel for the ‘elderly and beautiful’. However it doesn’t quite live up to the image of the photoshopped promos!
The reason for the sudden and dramatic change in these peoples’ lives vary from loneliness to illness to the feeling that they are no longer useful in British Society, even though they still feel active and have a passion for life. Each character goes through their own personal journey, from being frustrated or lonely in the UK to realising their true potential and having a second chance at life. Think Slumdog Millionaire meets An Idiot Abroad meets Cocoon.
The film features a stellar British cast including Dame Judi Dench and Dame Maggie Smith (reunited again after Ladies In Lavender), Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton, Celia Imrie, Tom Wilkinson and Ronald Pickup. Tom Wilkinson’s character wishes to be reunited with his first love, an Indian man whose family he shamed with the affair, whilst Dame Judi’s character is learning to live life on her own without her recently deceased, controlling husband. The outstanding character, as expected, is the downtrodden Maggie Smith as an embittered, untrusting, lonely, wheelchair bound woman with a mistrust of anyone who isn’t white skinned. Her journey is one of the farthest, and she steals each scene with a single look or wonderful line such as ‘ I don’t’ plan anything ahead, I don’t even buy green bananas’ and ‘If I can’t pronounce it, I won’t eat it’
This character driven film set in exotic India has people we quickly care about going on a journey into the unknown. Sometimes we can relate to it, sometimes we can’t, but at times we are inspired. The solid acting is the true driving force behind the film, which is only to be expected from the outstanding cast. Penelope Wilton also excels as a bitter character who refuses to partake in the new experience, and whose negativity affects all around her, but even her character learns from her experience. Look out for the wonderful quip by Celia Imrie on the train!
With the pedigree behind the film it has a Film Four feel to it (feeling similar to Tea With Mussolini and Mrs Henderson Presents) and has a target cinema audience for the middle aged and gay cinemagoers who love a dame!
Overall Verdict: This is by no means an adventurous or groundbreaking film, but it delivers what British film has been churning out in the last 20 years – good safe family entertainment with Britain’s leading actors. The film Tuk Tuks (like the preferred mode of transport) along like a pleasant, predictable journey into the exotic and is enjoyable nonetheless.
Reviewer: Stephen Sclater