Eye For Film >> Movies >> The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011) Film Review
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is as comfy and cosily British as a nice cup of tea and a biscuit. Bolstered by the great and the good of homegrown acting royalty, it just about gets away with the fact that Ol Parker's screenplay, based on These Foolish Things by Deborah Moggach, at times pushes the humour parlously close to Carry On Up The Elderly.
Beneath Parker's rather too broad approach to comedy, however, there are some thoughtful considerations of what it means to grow old - both in terms of how we are viewed by society and how we come to view ourselves. It's also interesting to note how strong all the female characters ultimately are - with each one, regardless of background, proving to be a decision-maker of some sort.
The elderly folk in question are Brits, who for an assortment of reasons, including widowhood, a hip op and financial difficulty, find themselves drawn by the lure of India's Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which claims to be for "the elderly and the beautiful". They are an eclectic mix, from Maggie Smith's lonely and fiercely racist Muriel - who considers herself so old, "I don't even buy green bananas" - to Ronald Pickup's ageing lothario Norman - "I've still got it - I just can't find anyone that wants it!" - to mismatched couple Douglas (Bill Nighy) and Joan (Penelope Wilton), he trying to embrace the newness, she a histrionic wreck.
Acting as a heartwarming hub - and garnering all the best emotional moments - are Evelyn (Judi Dench), who is trying to come to terms with recently lost love and Graham (Tom Wilkinson), whose foresaken romance is an altogether more distant affair.
When the expat strangers reach the hotel, however, they discover it is little more than a shell, despite the best intentions of Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel). Sonny, too, is facing both financial difficulty and trouble in affairs of the heart as his mum (Lillette Dubey) doesn't feel he has the capacity to cope with the hotel project and is determined to make him choose an arranged marriage over his girlfriend (Tena Desae).
This youth plot is the film's least successful element, feeling rather superfluous and bearing the brunt of Parker's overcooked humour. Patel is not a great actor at the best of times and against such subtlety and skill from the older cast members, he sticks out like a pig's snout in a veggie korma.
Needless to say, some people change and some do not, at a pace that won't scare the horses and in a manner which flirts with predictability but still holds just enough surprise. The acting from the veterans is ultimately so enjoyable and the colourful bustling streets of Jaipur painted so vividly by director John Madden and cinematographer Ben Davis, that it's hard not to warm to proceedings.Reviewed on: 20 Feb 2012