Saturday, 19 May 2012

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Yesterday, Kathy and I caught the Winnipeg opening of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, a delightful old-fashioned comedy drama featuring a wonderful cast of British veterans (who are largely responsible for the heartfelt charming nature of the film).
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel tells the story of seven British retirees who, for various reasons, want to escape the pressure and expense of their lives in the UK and are seduced by an advertisement for a free flight to Udaipur, India and a stay at The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. What they don’t know is that they are the hotel’s first guests in a very long time and that the hotel is not exactly as advertised.
For me, the first twenty minutes, summarized above, were the weakest part of the film. With one or two exceptions, I had no clear sense of what was motivating these people to take such a drastic step. I would have appreciated substantially more background story about their lives in the UK rather than the kind of brief glimpse you get into the lives of the survivors in a disaster flick. When, after a long and complicated journey to the hotel, our protagonists arrive to find the chaos that is The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and its well-meaning but incompetent young owner (Sonny, played well by Slumdog Millionaire’s Dev Patel), and realize that they have been deceived, there is almost no reaction. After some initial shock and mandatory complaints, they all end up settling in to the hotel with minimal fuss. That did not make sense to me, at least not as it was presented, and left me feeling frustrated and with the sense that I was watching a “lite” film which could have benefitted from the addition of a few more calories.
Once in India, however, the lives of our protagonists get much more interesting and I began to enjoy the film much more, aided by the remarkable (though hardly unexpected) outstanding performances by the likes of Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy and Maggie Smith, all of whom are an absolute joy to watch. Their power is matched, though, by the work of the cinematographer, who has created a masterpiece in the filming of life in India, balancing the rich colours of the hectic market with the soft pastels of the quiet and rundown parts of the city. With the help of a fine score by Thomas Newman, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel succeeds in feeling exotic (a requirement for such a film).
Directed by John Madden and written by Ol Parker (based on the novel These Foolish Things by Deborah Moggach, which Kathy had read), The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a gently humanizing if somewhat predictable story of the transforming power of community, relationships and new experiences. The ending, which I will not describe, may disappoint some, but if you are looking for a comedy drama which is a step above the usual Hollywood fare, this film is for you. I am even going to give it ***+. My mug is up.
And no, despite the fact that Kathy and I were the youngest people in the theatre, this is not just for those over sixty.


  1. I saw this a few months ago when I was teaching in the UK and had meant to write about it then. I also thought it a very enjoyable movie for many of the reasons that you described, though I actually enjoyed the opening twenty minutes (in some ways I thought there was more clever dialogue in those scenes then later on). It did feel almost as though there was some spell cast on the characters that lulled them into staying amidst the chaos of the hotel, but it was counter-balanced a bit by the complaints of a couple of folks. Yes, somewhat predictable and "lite" but also somewhat unique mini-plots among the characters. I definitely second the recommendation - ***1/2

  2. I laughed my head off, but I was rather alone! Most of my family enjoyed it but not as much as myself. Perhaps I identified too much with several of the characters. Perhaps I just love so many of the actors? Who knows.