The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – Review

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – Review

Review by FilmFellaHenry – 7.6/10

A group of ageing Brits spurn the grim prospect of retiring in England for a chance to live out their years in exotic India. Drawn to the seemingly luxurious Marigold Hotel, they soon discover their dream hotel is more a nightmare crapshack. Determined to make the best of it, the group attempt to brave the powerful Indian culture-shock: an experience that both broadens the mind and liberates the heart.

From the strong British cast and subject matter alone, it’s clear what The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel aims to deliver: a heart-warming, light comedy infused drama that breaks down the negative stereotypes of the older generation. Director John Madden (Shakespeare In Love, Captain Correlli’s Mandolin, The Debt) achieves this mandate with experienced competence and success, creating a solid vehicle to showcase the cast’s well established talents.

Despite the lack of any real surprises (narrative formula is clear from the outset), The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is possessed of an undeniable charm. Part of its proficiency lies with the variety of characters and their differing reactions to this unfamiliar country. Take Douglas (Bill Nighy) for example: a straight laced ex-civil servant who quickly reveals an intrepid nature eager for adventure, while his wife Jean (Penelope Wilton) immediately despises the country’s lack of sophistication and displays a clear reluctance to adapt. Both outlooks are quite understandable, yet create an immediate and necessary conflict that draws in many of the other characters.

Crucially, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel isn’t just about diametrically opposed people at odds with each other. With a predominantly older cast, the film deals with the trials that age brings, in a light hearted, yet effective manner. Norman (Ronald Pickup) is a player desperate for a last shot at romance who in his own words “still has it, but no one seems to want it”; he is mirrored by his female archetypal counterpart Madge (Celia Imrie). Evelyn (Judi Dench) uses the fresh sights of Asia as a way to cope with the recent death of her husband and the domineering interests of her controlling children. And the hilariously racist Muriel (Maggie Smith) provides some well punctuated comedy, while Graham’s (Tom Wilkinson’s) peaceful and open minded persona underplays a personal story that brings a sad poetry to the film.

But for me, the most interesting thing about The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was the situation in which I saw the film. Attending an unusually packed house at my local cinema, I figured the predominantly 50+ audience would guarantee a showing devoid of the usual inane chatter, popcorn chomping and intermittent flashes from a multitude of phone displays. Boy was I wrong. Without a doubt, it had to be the worst, loudest, most irritating audience I have ever had the displeasure to be a part of. Constantly (and I mean constantly) talking, repeating lines of dialogue and laughing as loud as possible like a jester on crack were just some of things I had to endure. A bizarre dichotomy became apparent: here I sat, watching a movie that enforced the notion that older people have dignity, spirit and ultimately deserved respect, while the real older people around me proved the exact opposite.

Despite the subsequent ageist rant that I exuded upon my girlfriend during the drive home, it still impressed me how The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel managed to keep a positive image of the elderly in mind, even after all that. Indeed, the fact that I managed to still engage with the movie while some old fool blathered in my ear about her recent shopping experience is to the film’s credit.

In summary, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel shirks the stuffy, boring stereotype of the elderly for a robust, fun loving and eminently wiser vision of getting old. And though your advanced years may seem a long way off, they’ll come eventually: I can only hope my Golden Years are as eventful as the characters’ lives in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Go check it out, but for Christ sake avoid sitting in with an older audience, if you value your blood pressure.

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About filmfellahenry
Film reviewer, script writer and occasional painter. Fan of Lumet, Aronofsky and Kubrick, with a good measure of early John Carpenter thrown in. Particularly like post-apocalyptic sci-fi, horror and fantasy film genres.

2 Responses to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – Review

  1. Unfortunate viewing circumstances! Our (usually very quite) Picturehouse was also full of elder-generation patrons to see Exotic Marigold, but my experience was not as bad as yours. There was a smattering of chatter, and some guy gave a audible approval when Sonny’s girlfriend was found in her underwear in Celia Imrie’s bedroom! Other than that the most offensive thing was the old dear sat next to me opening her bag of Werther’s Original!

    I also really enjoyed the film btw!

    • filmfellahenry says:

      Thanks for the comment FilmsrRuss. Talking through a movie is one of those bugbears that seems to grow more prominent the older I get – for me, it’s like pissing in an art gallery. And to experience it from a generation that should really know better…

      But the film definitely surprised me with how quickly it drew me in. For something I was semi-reluctant to go see, it made a distinct change from my recent cinema disappointments (Chronicle heading the list). Plus it’s always good to see a British film that isn’t either a) a period drama; b) a gritty realism underclass statement ; or c) a low rent horror flick.

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