Monday, May 28, 2012
STARS: Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith, Dev Patel, Tom Wilkinson, Celia Imrie, Penelope Wilton, Ronald Pickup
DIRECTOR: John Madden
A colorful assemblage of "elderly" Brits heads off to India where their retirement dollars will go further. Awaiting them is the "newly remodeled" (according to the brochure) Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. They arrive to find a structure that is crumbling and in disrepair. Sonny, (Dev Patel from Slumdog Millionaire ) the young, buoyant hotel manager has good intentions and a dream of renovating the place, but he needs to secure some funding. Some of the lodgers will make the best of it, and some will utter grouchy, mean-spirited things. In the end, each will find something or someone they've been searching for, and be transformed.
An ensemble cast as large as this one could be unwieldy, but there are many familiar names here, and I find it easier to remember a character's story when it's a face that I recognize. These are stock characters, for the most part, but it doesn't make their stories any less poignant or compelling.
There's Jean and Doug (Penelope Wilton & Bill Nighy) the not so happily married couple who lost their savings when they invested it in their daughters business venture. Nighy, of course, is a great comic presence, but he's more subtly engaged with it here.
Muriel, (Maggie Smith) a retired housekeeper who doesn't like India initially--maybe something to do with her being a racist and needing a hip replacement.
Evelyn, (Judi Dench) a recent widow and all alone.
Madge (Celia Imrie) is a wealthy woman on the prowl for a husband.
Norman, (Ronald Pickup) an aging lecher (or "horny old dude" in contemporary parlance) on the prowl for one night stands.
But the most poignant of the pensioners' story lines belongs to Graham, (Tom Wilkinson) a high court judge who grew up in India, and is back to find a man he loved when they were both teenagers, and hasn't seen since.
A subplot involves Sonny and his true love, Sunainia, (Tena Desae) whom his domineering mother doesn't approve of. She wants her son to enter an arranged marriage. It's a clash of traditional and contemporary Indian mores. Things will come to a head, and Sonny will face his moment of truth with his mother.
Beautifully shot and deftly paced, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel captures the bustle, the color, and the seductive allure of a land where cows and elephants saunter down the street--and the truly wise men are the ones who know enough not to follow too closely behind either one.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is the best exotic movie I've seen since...well... Slumdog Millionaire.