The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2012)

In an extended prologue, the audience is introduced to assorted retirees forced to face the realities of their old age. Evelyn (Judi Dench) has inherited substantial debts from her deceased husband, a man to whom she was married for most of her life; Douglas (Bill Nighy) and Jean (Penelope Wilton) are touring potential care homes to patronising effect; Muriel (Maggie Smith) is trying to track down an English doctor who can replace her hip in this lifetime; Madge (Celia Imrie – who you might have missed in Phantom Menace 3D) and Norman (Ronald Pickup) are independently searching for love; and Graham (Tom Wilkinson), now an ex-lawyer, is seeking to return to India in search of  the love of  his life. When Soony’s (Dev Patel) heavily photoshopped Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is found to be in a similar state of disrepair, however, it quickly becomes clear that Jaipur might not be to everyone’s tastes.

Director John Madden skews older in this unconventional romantic comedy, an ensemble Britcom which might as well be titled Retirement, Actually for all of its interwoven subplots and criss-crossing character arcs. Adapted from Deborah Moggach’s These Foolish Things by Ol Parker, the real pull of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is undoubtedly its monopoly on national treasures, boasting as it does M, Professor McGonagall and Davey Jones as they seek out sunnier pastures for one last adventure.

It is easy to criticise fish-out-of-water comedies for their oversimplistic treatment of the cultures that they seek to send up. Less an issue for the likes of The Inbetweeners Movie (largely by virtue of the characters indifference towards Malia itself), The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel risks going full stereotype, as it is forced to paint India in the broadest of brush strokes. Unlike such recent international relations disasters as Sex and the City 2, however, the film’s setting is never the butt of the joke, with the country’s impact on our varying explorers instead generating most of the comedy. Yes this might be India through the eyes of food, textile and animal stylists, but is a perfectly harmless approximation that falls short of insensitive.

After all, with the likes of Dames Judi Dench and Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy and Tom Wilkinson chewing up scenery, Jaipur itself was always going to struggle to make much of an impression. Armed with a lively script and effortless dynamic, the ensemble breathes new life into the wisened voice over, the holiday romance and the last minute declaration of love, showing all that has gone before precisely how its done. Wilkinson’s conflicted lover (“more in theory than in practice these days”) arguably makes the biggest impression, although it is Smith who undoubtedly makes the biggest transformation – Muriel’s transition from racist curmudgeon to India’s best friend potentially jarring in anyone else’s hands.

Poor Dev Patel doesn’t even stand a chance, his own struggle mere soap operatics compared to the film’s other subplots, even if it is just Evelyn explaining how to dunk a biscuit or Douglas attempting to fix a leaky tap. Like all British comedy, there is a shambolic air as the poignancy and dignity brought to proceedings by the Thespian element is undermined by incongruous bouts of slapstic and stupidity. While the result is generally charming, there are moments that simply don’t ring true, the climax in particular, while the film’s considerable length does little to frame its many assets.

Genial, charming and endlessly endearing, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel showcases the best of British against a truly joyous and vibrant Indian backdrop. Though structurally it could still use some work, it is easy to overlook the odd wrinkle when the cast is this much fun.

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About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

One Response to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2012)

  1. Pingback: February 2012 – Wow, that was such an expensive looking explosion! « popcornaddict

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