Sonny (Dev Patel) is an unrealistic, optimistic young man who’s inherited a 1/3 interest in a dilapidated ancient hotel called The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel he plans to turn into an idyllic residence “for the elderly and the beautiful” in Jaipur, India. A group of British seniors become his first guests and arrive, ready to set up residence, even though the hotel is not quite prepared for their arrival. Some amusing moments ensue as the staid Brits face one issue after another, but amusingly learn to cope.
The crème de la crème of British theatre, film and television talent comprise the award-winning cast in support of Deborah Moggach’s book, upon which The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is based. Such noteworthy actors as Dame Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson, Penelope Wilton, Celia Imrie and Ronald Pickup bring great vitality and youthful fire to the story. While an older group of talent, compared to let’s say Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter), they perfectly embody the spirit, ambition and enthusiasm of a younger generation, bringing the film’s story to life.
For their own individual reasons, each character is emigrating to India, whether those reasons are medical, financial or emotional. Meeting for the first time at Heathrow, they quickly form a bond and common purpose – just getting there. Of course this presents a challenge, but they do make it, much to their shock. Hating foreigners, Muriel (Maggie Smith) has to have a hip-replacement surgery. She is befriended by a servant girl of the Untouchable caste and learns to adapt to her new community. Evelyn (Dame Judi Dench) searches for meaning after the passing of her husband, to whom she dedicated her married years. Like Muriel, she adapts, taking a job teaching about British culture at a call centre. Graham (Tom Wilkinson) returns to India, slowly coming out to his new found friends, as he searches for the man he loved some four decades earlier.
John Madden (Mrs. Brown, Shakespeare in Love) directed the film and managed keep it quite British, though the location is thousands of miles from English shores. The impressive and outstanding cast pulls the story and its sub-plots together in a feast of talented story-telling. Wilton, Nighy, Dench and the rest of the ensemble bring a magical experience to the screen that is enhanced by seeing it at the cinema.
Whilst The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is principally the story of Britons in their retirement years, the film offers so many sub-plots that it should appeal to all ages. It deals with the inherent prejudices of the caste system, homophobia, the fears retirees face, old prejudices people can learn to overcome, love, affection, stern parenting, youthful exuberance, sexual frustrations and desires, and a range of other issues that either tug at one’s heart or bring it joy.
The film takes a unique look at how some people leave the burdens of their lives at home when traveling, while others carry those burdens like an inconvenient extra set of baggage, no matter where they go. It looks poignantly at a troubled marriage and the relationships people keep and lose, while conversely looking at another former relationship lost and rediscovered. We discover the troubled relationship between a mother and son, and both a man and woman, each single, in the pursuit of one last bit of romance and happiness in their later years.
The retirees settling into the hotel are not merely on an extended vacation, but are relocating – starting their lives over, each taking a courageous, bold step in their lives to find some degree of affordable happiness. Whether happy or sad, the characters speak to each of us, eloquently informing us and enlightening our own views all the while.
Set in the colorful beauty of Jaipur, the film’s stunning views show the multi-layered society and magnificent scenery of India. Ranging from the vibrant hues of the markets to the extraordinary sunsets and vistas found in the region, to its cultural history and overcrowded streets, the film captures the very best and worst of India leaving the viewer with a craving for a good curry.
This film is a powerful tour-de-force of talent with the brilliant subliminal message that prejudice exists but can easily be overcome with understanding and knowledge. The performances of its stellar cast are nothing less than brilliant. We consider it a must-see film and expect it will win a number of major awards this year.
You’ll find moments of great humor, pathos, tenderness and humility, compassion, love and tenderness, anger and frustration, hatred and passion in this adorable, wonderful and outstanding film.