Fox Searchlight Pictures
Directed by John Madden
Produced by Graham Broadbent
Written by Ol Parker
Based on “These Foolish Things” by Deborah Moggach
Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel) is way in over his head but he’s got enthusiasm, confidence and pluck enough to fill Yankee Stadium. He’s inherited a dilapidated business from his deceased father, THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL and he’s positive he can turn it into a spectacular success. All he has to do is convince a local businessman to invest in the place before his two older and more successful brothers tear down the place as well as keep his mother off his back. She wants Sonny to return to Delhi and an arraigned marriage but he insists that he can make the hotel pay off big time. His mother demands to know how.
“Look at the world around us!” Sonny tells her. “The whole world is outsourcing their jobs to India! Why not outsource their old people here as well?” Because that’s the heart of Sonny’s plan as he changes the name of the hotel to: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel For The Elderly And Beautiful to complete its transformation into a retirement hotel for British retirees.
It’s not as hard to get clients as Sonny has slightly exaggerated the luxuries and charms of the Marigold Hotel. The retirees who decide to relocate to The Marigold Hotel are all British retirees from all levels of their society’s structure.
Evelyn Greenslade ( Judi Dench) has recently been widowed and is forced to sell her house to cover her husband’s debts. For her, this is the adventure she never got to have and she embraces it warmly, maintaining and regularly blogging to inform her family and friends of her new life. Douglas and Jean Ainslie (Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilson) have invested and lost their life savings in their daughter’s internet business. Their marriage is already desperately unhappy and they simply cannot face their future together in such circumstances. They may not be able to face it in India, either. Penelope is immediately attracted to High Court judge Graham Dashwood (Tom Wilkinson) who lived in India until he was 18. He’s returned to find the love of his life and find closure for that bittersweet relationship. Militantly racist Muriel Donnelly (Maggie Smith) needs a hip replacement badly. Unfortunately the waiting list in England is six months long. She elects to go to India where the operation can be done almost immediately. Aging playboy Norman Cousins (Ronald Pickup) seeks to recapture his youth through one-night stands. He isn’t as good at picking up women as he used to be but the old boy is in there trying. Madge Hardcastle (Celia Imrie) is just as horny as Norman but she’s got her cap set on bagging a rich husband to share her golden years with.
All of these characters intertwine their lives in The Best Marigold Hotel in the most unexpected ways as it often happens when total strangers are thrown together in strange circumstances. And it’s touching, whimsically sad, hilarious and downright life-affirming to see how these people handle being older while making new relationships with each other and a new country. They’re at the time of their lives when they have more days behind than ahead and it’s increasingly more precious to them as a result of how they spend those days.
The cast couldn’t be better. Bill Nighy steals the movie far as I’m concerned and considering who he’s co-starring with, that isn’t easy. But I could sympathize with this quiet man who simply wishes to get along with his wife and make the best of a bad situation. As his wife Jean, Penelope Wilson at times will make you hate her and sometimes feel sorry for her, all in the same scene. There’s no point in me telling you that Judi Densch and Maggie Smith are brilliant because if you know their work then you know that they’re incapable of being anything less. And Tom Wilkinson has the most poignant and surprising character arc, one that is handled with extraordinary sensitivity and pathos. Celia Imrie and Ronald Pickup are mainly here for the comedy relief and they handle the job with wicked dialog.
As for India, which is just as much of a character in the movie as the human cast…every time I watch a movie about India I want to jump in a plane and go there myself just to see if it’s as exotically packed full of life and color as it looks in the movie. I especially liked a scene where Judge Dashwood takes time out from his search for his lost love to play a game of cricket with a group of children.
So should you see THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL? I’m glad I did and I think you should as well. First off, I like it that a movie like this can still get made as not everybody wants to see superheroes or big CGI blockbusters all the time. It’s a nice change of pace to see such a warm, human movie filled with characters so pleasant to spend time with. Just because the movie stars senior citizens doesn’t mean it’s an old story. Stories as enriching as THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL never grow old.