Review by JAMES BARTLETT
Lured by the chance for a golden age in the golden raj – and also in search of a new lease of life (whether they want it or not), a plucky group of senior Brits sign up for a stay at the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel in Jaipur, India.
There’s newly-widowed and broke Evelyn (Dench), the unhappily married Ainslies, Doug and Jean (Nighy and Penelope Wilton), racist Muriel (Smith) who is only there to get a quick hip replacement (this is the age of “outsourcing” after all), and randy grays Norman (Ronald Pickup) and Madge (Celia Imrie), who are both looking for late love.
Thrown together when the plane is delayed, final traveler Graham (Wilkinson) – the only one who’s been to India before – takes charge, and soon they’re roughing it on a long bus trip and zipping through the traffic in tuk-tuks. Then they arrive at the hotel and find that it’s rather more ramshackle than the brochure, the keen but out-of-his-depth Sonny (Patel) struggling to hold the family business together.
But being Brits they all decide to make the best of it – well, aside from the ever-complaining Jean and the grouchy Muriel – and all have some adventures, the most interesting of which is Graham, who is trying to find a long-lost love. Love is on the mind of Sonny too; he wants to marry the girl he loves – call center operator Sunaina (Tena Desae) – but things aren’t that easy for anyone, and things get more complicated than the never-ending curries the over-keen chef cooks for dinner.
Coming out the same weekend as The Avengers, this movie has been deliberately counter-programmed for an older, AARP audience and is a charming and gorgeous-looking sojourn into a picture postcard India. It’s also pretty shallow and cheesy at times, with an overall feeling that with so many characters, they all seem to suddenly or inexplicably blurt out major emotional information at the drop of a hat to their new acquaintances, rather than work their stories. It’s a shame to somewhat waste the cracking cast (though it’s great to see Maggie Smith so different from “Downton Abbey”) and even though it overstays its welcome, most people who buy their tickets won’t really care. And India does look beautiful and exotic.
Trailer for The Best Exoitc Marigold Hotel
THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL
Director: John Madden
Duration: 124 mins
Starring: Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Maggie Smith, Dev Patel
Score: 2½ out of 5