Movie Review – The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
“If you need a British woman for a film,” according to Charlie Rose in his interview with Dame Judi Dench “you either get Maggie Smith or Judi Dench.” This lovely film includes them both, along with a cast of other familiar faces you will remember, even if you do not know their names.
British actors seem so well-known to us because their numbers are so small (of the 165,642 SAG/AFTRA members(1) , only 396 are from the U.K) and because they work so hard! Tom Wilkinson (best known to me from The Full Monty and Shakespeare in Love) has done 109 movies and television appearances since 1976. (Even Michael Caine, who seems to be in everything, has only done about 70 in that same time.) Marigold Hotel was released in 2011, and Celia Imrie (Bridget Jones Diary, Imagine Me & You) has already done five other films and five TV series appearances. (By the way, imdb.com has mountains of great information about films and actors.)
When a friend described the story of this film to me, I was a bit hesitant: A number of retiring Brits, forced by economic difficulties and discouraged by bleak facilities for retirees back home, fall under the spell of an advertisement “for the elderly and beautiful” from a Jaipur, India retirement facility, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
Sounds a bit depressing, doesn’t it? Instead, the movie is a joyous celebration of people who find that life still has much to offer. There is an almost “Wizard of Oz” effect between the scenes shot in England and those shot in India: from subdued and bleak and gray to shocking and gaudy color. I felt nearly assaulted by sound, imagined smells, sights, and crowds. But I liked it!
The Hotel is not exactly as it was advertised, but is both less and more. Maggie Smith plays a grump who slowly reveals her true nature, and Penelope Wilton, who will be familiar to Downton Abbey & Masterpiece Theater fans, plays the oh-so-very-awful wife, Jean Ainslie. Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, Judi Dench, Ronald Pickup and Diana Hardcastle are lovely, quirky characters. The young Dev Patel (Jamal Malik in Slumdog Millionaire) plays a funny, eager Sonny, the hotel’s owner, trying to hang on to his father’s legacy and build a life for himself.
I’m sure you’ve experienced the differing ways people reveal themselves when confronted with crisis. Immersing oneself in a culture, with food, people, experiences, traditions completely different from those we are used to, can surely be thought of as a kind of crisis. There are those who accept change with patience, tolerance and enthusiasm, opening their hearts and minds to the new experience, and there are those who do not. This revelation and difference is at the heart of this film.
As Evelyn (Judi Dench) describes, “Initially, you’re overwhelmed. But gradually you realize it’s like a wave. Resist, and you’ll be knocked over. Dive into it, and you’ll swim out the other side.” Excellent advice for us all.
This movies may be rented or streamed through Netflix, purchased through Amazon and many are available at your local library.