[Review] – The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

16 May

Title: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Year: 2012
Director: John Madden
Writer: Ol Parker, based on the novel by Deborah Moggach
Starring: Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson, Penelope Wilton, Ronald Pickup, Celia Imrie, Dev Patel
MPAA Rating: PG-13, sexual content and language
Runtime: 124 min
IMDb Rating: 7.5
Rotten Tomatoes: 75%
Metacritic: 62

The Best Exotic Marigold has been doing some really solid business lately, already having made quite a bit of bank abroad where it was released first, and getting into the Top 10 in the US this weekend even though it’s only playing on limited release, earning a really nice per-screen average and becoming a solid counter-programming for mostly older people who aren’t giving into the hype of The Avengers. And even though it’s not great filmmaking by any means, I definitely get the appeal of this film, it’s a nice enough, though predictable, story and then it all gets propelled to bigger heights because of its cast. Seriously, take a second to scroll up and read the names of the people who star in this one, some of the very best and most experienced actors are popping up here having fun with their roles.

That’s pretty much what this film is, a nice enough time at the theater that, while not offering something hugely original by any means, does give us a chance to relish in the acting talents of some of Britain’s most illustrious veteran thespians; and it worked for me. These actors are so tremendously gifted that their presence alone elevates this one quite a bit, because the story is actually pretty generic and clichéd and yet they have all these great little moments that makes this one worth a watch. They make this two-hour-plus running time go by pretty damn smoothly.

The film follows around this group of British retirees decide to live out their years of retirement in India, a place that’s far cheaper, much more exotic, and where they imagine they’d live a totally relaxed life in the Marigold Hotel, for which they’ve seen some ads bolstering how it’s just super luxurious. Once they arrive, however, they find out that the hotel is far less classy than they imagined, but of course they’ll still be transformed by their time there, finding out that when you let go you can find yourself enjoying life and love all over again.

All of that, by the way, is what I mean by saying that we’ll be thoroughly expecting all of that. By the time you see these seven Brits look at the brochure of the luxurious hotel, jammed in the bus from the airport going there, you’ll just know that the hotel won’t be as advertised and that the film will be about how even then they’ll find themselves rejuvenated in a way by it. But then this film turns to these seven actors to make it transcend those limitations and make The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel a charming and warm and amusing film. This is one of those films in which it’s good that you have no surprises in the plot because you can focus on the wonderful things these actors are doing.

You have Judi Dench as our narrator, a widower who has had to sell her flat in London; the incomparable Maggie Smith as a cranky woman who’s quite racist but who must go because the hip replacement she needs is cheaper in India; Tom Wilkinson as a man who had lived in India before and is now back to find the one who got away; Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilton as an unhappily married couple; and then Celia Imrie and Ronald Pickup as two people who are open to the possibility of finding love there, though she wants something steady and he’s more interested in a more fleeting experience. And then there’s Dev Patel as the young man who’s in charge of running the hotel.

Like I said before, just look at those names I just listed and make a recap of all the great performances you’ve seen across the years from them. Even if in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel they are playing stereotypical characters of sorts they are still absolutely brilliant, and director John Madden (who directed Shakespeare in Love) knows how to handle ensembles with great actors, he knows how to provide all of his actors with really nice opportunities to shine and make this whole thing an experience that goes down really smoothly.

It’s all super easy to watch and gently handled by the director. You always know where this is going to end up, and what these characters will do as they explore this new country they are now in, and it’s fine that this one’s such a familiar ride because you can just sit back and relax and watch these tremendous actors do their thing, Tom Wilkinson probably the best amongst them, or at least the one that gets the best storyline until it ends up in a really predictable fashion. You’ll never be thinking “damn, this is a great” film while you’re watching this one, but you’ll never think the opposite of that either, it’s just a pleasant enough time. And if you’ve seen The Avengers too many times by now (and it’s the only A+ I’ve given this year so hopefully you have), then this is the second best seven-people effort you’ll find.

The one thing I disliked about the film is that the script, by Ol Parker, showed no real interest in the human connections in the film. I mean it obviously did show how these characters connected against all odds in this place, but they’re pretty superficial connections and I would have liked to have seen the film go deeper into them, especially in the case of Mr. Wilkinson’s connection to the love he left behind in India. But The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is more focussed on really tame, low-stakes adventures of a group of characters that are given depth and substance they otherwise wouldn’t have because of these amazing actors. And your experience will mirror the one of these characters, something that seemed luxurious at first because of the talent attached will be evidently more mundane by the time you first take a look at it, but little by little it’ll grow on you because of the people involved.

Grade: B

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