There are movies that only the British seem capable of pulling off, populated with non-caricatured older people who have depth and interesting stories to tell. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is one of those films. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that those old people are played by some of the most talented actors in the world, Dames Judi Dench and Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, and Tom Wilkinson, and directed by John Madden who brought us Shakespeare in Love. It is funny and sweet with just the right amount of romance and a bit of drama tossed in to make it a thoroughly entertaining ride.
The story revolves around a group of retirees who all end up at the same hotel in Jaipur, India, drawn there by an overly-optimistic ad that promises a different sort of retirement experience. The place is anything but best, though it is exotic, and the characters are each transformed through the process of acclimating to their new lives. The hotel, a stiff wind away from collapse, is run by a very earnest young man who is trying to prove himself to his family and himself, played with great comic flare by Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire). Dame Maggie plays one of those overly insulated British women she does so well, coming to India for a hip replacement against her better judgment, but gradually losing the armor. Dame Judi’s character is a widow who has lost her home to pay off her husband’s debts and is bravely venturing out on her own for the first time in her life. Bill Nighy arrives with a wife who is uninterested in experiencing anything new or seeing anything good in the exotic, and finds himself attracted to his freedom to explore on his own. This is one of those scripts that lets each character’s own story thread develop and gradually knits them all together into a lovely tapestry.
I would really recommend The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel to everyone. It may be about old people, but the idea that you always have the capacity to reinvent yourself if you put yourself out there is universal. And this is a really funny movie. I took my mom and we both thoroughly enjoyed it, but I could see it as a good date film, too. The young hotelier is courting a beautiful young woman, and romance is key to several of the seniors’ stories, as well. It is a total feel good movie with a cast you just love to watch. Go, see, enjoy! And plan for a nice Indian dinner after.