Clearly, this weekend, I was in the mood for movies in which troubled souls travel to India for a spiritual journey and self-discovery.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel has a rockstar cast and a not so novel premise. The movie tells of the lives of multiple people who are all tied to a run-down retirement hotel in India. Sonny (Dev Patel), the owner of the hotel, is very ambitious and energetic despite the rundown state of his hotel; he aspires to make his hotel a success and to wed the woman he loves, despite his wealthy mother’s disapproval. Evelyn (Judi Dench), recently widowed, has to sell her house to cover her husband’s debts, and decides to move to India, to start out a fresh, independent life, taking on a job and maintaining an online blog about her experiences. Graham (Tom Wilkinson) is a high-court judge, who after retiring decides to move back to India, where he grew up, and to seek out his one true love from his youth. Jean (Penelope Wilton) and Douglas (Bill Nighy), married couple of almost forty years, decide to try out the retirement home in India after losing most of their life savings through investing in their daughter’s internet business. Muriel (Maggie Smith) is a racially prejudiced former housekeeper who needs a hip replacement, and chooses to go to India to receive it quickly and inexpensively. Madge (Celia Imrie) is looking for a another (hopefully wealthy) husband, while Norman (Ronald Pickup) is looking for a woman, with whom he can recapture his youth.
There really isn’t much to say about this movie. There was a lot to be taken regarding the treatment of the elderly by the younger generations. Many of the old who sought out the Marigold Hotel did so because they no longer saw purpose to their lives in England (Evelyn) or, being elderly, felt that there was nothing left to do but to wait out the remainder of their lives. The Marigold Hotel, which was advertised as a home for the elderly, gave each of these people the opportunity redefine their lives in a new context, without feeling the shackles of old age, or how the young treat the old. Evelyn takes her first job in her entire life, after moving to India, whereas had she stayed in England she would have be taken care of by her children. Douglas, who never did a day of manual labor, fixes a sink for the first time in his life.
There was something to also be gained regarding the passing of time. All of these people lived out their lives, only to stop and wonder if the choices they had made had left them for the better or worse. Graham had left the love of his life and gone to England to be a lawyer then judge. He knew he would never be happier than he was with the person he left behind, yet he never even contacted his love, until after he returned to India. Douglas and Jean had been married for almost forty years, and most of that time was devoted to each other out of loyalty, respect, and obligation; they were polar opposites and not even truly happy with each other.
The movie wasn’t something special, and watching it once will be just enough for me. I did really enjoy the cast’s performance. They were an experienced group, and dominated the camera, and without them, the movie, with its kind of generic plot, would have been lacking. I really enjoyed Maggie Smith’s performance (she had some of the best laugh out loud moments), and I enjoyed her character development throughout the movie; she went from the woman who made me cringe with her racism to the woman who goes out of her way to save the Marigold Hotel and help Sonny. I also really enjoyed Judi Dench’s performance. This was the first time I had seen her in a role that wasn’t a hardened woman, who aggressively stood her ground. She was a more softened and emotional woman in this role (who also stood her ground, but in a bit of less coarse manner), and I think she did a fabulous job.
If you’re looking for a light movie, with a lot of familiar faces that can give you a couple of laughs I suggest the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.