Saturday, May 05, 2012

“The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” – Movie Review


This week in my movie class, we saw the new comedy-drama “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”, with an ensemble cast that includes Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson and Maggie Smith.


When a collection of senior citizens head to India on individual missions, will this experience serve them well or further contribute to the turmoil already existing in their life?


The brochure for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel in Jaipur, India makes the place look like the perfect destination for senior citizens on a vacation – unfortunately, it’s not until you get there that you realize you have been a victim of false advertising. Besides the hotel being rundown and filthy, the plumbing doesn’t work and the phones are broken – other than that, it’s an ideal spot, which is precisely what its manager Sonny (Dev Patel) would have you believe. Sonny is working hard to restore the place and make his fortune in the world, but it will take more time, money and expertise than even this energetic young man possesses.

Sonny’s devious marketing strategy appears to be working because it seems to have inspired a group of recent retirees to book an upcoming stay at the hotel. Each one of them has their own unique reason for wanting to vacation there: Evelyn (Dench), newly widowed, finds herself barely left with enough money to live on and must suddenly learn a new sense of independence; having just walked away from his distinguished law career as a judge, Graham (Wilkinson) decides to return to the land where he was raised in order to try to reconnect with a long-lost love; reluctantly retired, Muriel (Smith) desperately needs hip replacement surgery – and since it can be done relatively inexpensively and quickly here, India makes sense.

These three are joined by other oldsters from the same homeland: Douglas (Bill Nighy) and his wife Jean (Penelope Wilton) wind up there after their savings is depleted as a result of investing in their daughter’s failed technology start-up; Norman (Ronald Pickup) and Madge (Celia Imrie) are single and make the trek for similar reasons regarding the opposite sex – he’s looking to rediscover his youth via sexual conquests while she is hopeful of finding her next in an ongoing series of husbands, preferably a wealthy one, at that. But with this motley group intermingling in the same hotel, will they be successful in finding what they are looking for or will the experience result in the biggest mistake any of them have ever made?


“The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” is the film version of the novel by Deborah Moggach, “These Foolish Things”; the film is purported to have been a big hit in the U.K. and is now being released in the U.S. Given this stellar ensemble cast, you would rightly expect some rather fine performances – and you’ll get them, especially from Maggie Smith, who is the funniest character among the seniors. Unfortunately, the script is not up to the task as it is replete with clichés and corny jokes that are even older and more tired than much of the main cast. The story moves at a tortoise pace and with seven elderly travelers, there are maybe one or two subplots too many; less is more in this case – paring it down to five characters might’ve made it easier to follow.

Just as the hotel in this story was marketed to the geezer crowd, so is this movie being marketed to the same people, as well. The question is, do seniors make it out to the theaters in enough numbers that this flick will need in order to make any kind of a dent at the box office this weekend? Probably not – which means it likely will get lost amidst the other releases. If you’re looking to avoid long lines and crowded theaters, you may want to consider going to see “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” instead of “The Avengers”. “Marigold Hotel” isn’t a terrible film – it’s well-intentioned, sincere and sweet; the problem comes with its triteness and lack of edge to make it sufficiently interesting to anyone outside of the demographic that matches its stars.

While I can’t really recommend this movie as one to see in theaters, it might be good as a rental/download or a viewing when it inevitably shows up on cable TV. Although my reaction was one of the few dissenting voices in response to this film, most of the students in my class really seemed to like it quite a good deal; you might indeed like it, as well. Then again, a large number of the students in my movie class fit right in the sweet spot of the group that this film is targeting, so that might explain the positive reaction. There were some considerably younger members of the class that claimed they enjoyed “Marigold Hotel”—but I believe they may have been the exception that proves the rule.



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