The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (Review)

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Written by Ol Parker (screenplay) and Deborah Moggach (novel “These Foolish Things”)
Directed by John Madden

In the West, our society doesn’t have the best track record in taking care of the elderly. In fact, it’s pretty awful in America to be old, with our bizarre obsession with the worship of youth. People spend billions trying to look younger, and old people are shuttered away in homes and retirement communities, ignored by their kids. Old people are written off as crabby grumps, except for the occasional “rockin’ grandma” stereotype. Quite frankly, it sucks. So when The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel started appearing on the trailer radar, you can imagine how quickly the youth of today ignored it and went back to Facebook on their smartphones. Which is a shame, because The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a great film. It is uplifting and inspiring, a film that will make you feel good.

Once The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel began, we were in for a treat. A story that deals with the plight of older retirees, for whom the cards didn’t fall just right and through various financial, medical, or personal reasons have decided to spend their twilight years in India at a hotel designed to cater to their needs. (To outsource their retirement, as the hotel owner states!)

Once again, TarsTarkas.NET has sold out and attended another advanced screening for free, because we have the golden touch of acquiring free tickets from gullible studios! Take that, big money! Tracking down free screenings is becoming my favorite game, though the princess might be in another castle, I can often find tickets lying around her empty room…

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel features a wide array of awesome British actors and actresses, who I have seen in more movies than I can count over the years (I was going to count, and then lost count and gave up!) Instead of a paragraph explaining everyone, I’ll do it in Roll Call form, because that’s what makes TarsTarkas.NET feel like TarsTarkas.NET!

Evelyn (Judi Dench) – A widowed housewife, who let her husband take care of the financials and never asked questions. Thus she’s forced to sell her house to pay off his debts and move to India to retire, and to finally have an adventure. Her blog on her time at the hotel serves as narration and reflection.
Muriel (Maggie Smith) – A former nanny with a bad hip and a bad attitude to those of darker skin. But the only way to get her hip replaced quickly is through a hospital in India, thus her journey to the hotel and the Indian experience. She spent her whole life caring for another family that she didn’t bother with one for herself.
Graham (Tom Wilkinson) – A judge who finally retires after threatening to do so for many years. Graham grew up in India and returns to find the boy he grew up with and loved, only to cause drama among their families when they were discovered and Graham was sent back to the UK.
Douglas (Bill Nighy) – Douglas has been married to his wife Jean (Penelope Wilton) for 39 years, but their retirement is gone thanks to an investment in their daughter’s company that didn’t pan out, and their future seems bleak in an awful retirement community, until they decide to take a chance on the Marigold Hotel. Douglas loves India and grows beyond his useless henpecked self thanks to the country.
Sonny (Dev Patel) – Owner of the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel that he inherited from his father, the prior operator. Has big plans for the facility, but is stymied by lack of funds and lack of his mother’s enthusiasm of both his dreams for the hotel and the woman he wants to marry, a telemarketer named Sunaina (Tena Desae)

In addition, Norman (Ronald Pickup) and Madge (Celia Imrie) also end up at the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, both of whom are older people searching for fun and an active bedroom life. The film doesn’t do the obvious and have them hook up, which is a relief.

The characters begin in very British England and thanks to the hotel managing their trips over, end up on the same flights and deal with the same problems in stellar British style. When the last flight is cancelled, they end up on a cross-country bus ride packed with others.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel itself doesn’t look like the brochure, as the proprietor is in the middle of fixing it up. Sonny has no money for a major renovation and the hotel looks like it is a strong breeze away from keeling over entirely. In a way, the hotel reflects the state of the lives of those who come to inhabit it – old and decaying.

Life in India is portrayed as vibrant and alive, the city teeming with life, both the many people and the animals seen all over the city. It is a sharp contrast to the stifling, low key, and routine lives seen of the cast members during their short introduction scenes. The life of the city helps breath life back into the residents, they begin to step out of their shells and their personalities. Some set out to not becoming stagnant in their age and finding something, while Graham searches for the man he left behind. Even Sonny’s dreams of turning the hotel into something bigger and expanding on his father’s dream is dealt with, his big plans and energy forced to deal with life that is set on pushing him back.

Each character finds something, though not exactly what they’re looking for. Past lovers, purpose, an exit, peace, their groove… The film could easily be made into a series with the diverse group of characters. Loneliness among the elderly is mirrored unexpectedly by a character who is from the untouchable class who is ignored by the Indians, but not by the residents who don’t even know there is a caste difference. There are some great scenes between the Untouchable maid and the racist Muriel, who sees the ugly reflection of herself in the way the society there treats someone who is kind to her, and Muriel’s own experiences with the family she served with for decades.

And while it is not perfect, it is done well enough that you can ignore the periods where the stories play out the way they usually do. Enough twists are thrown in that it isn’t entirely done by the numbers. The rejuvenation of purpose in the residents is mirrored in the hotel, as it becomes more fixed up along the way.

Another big theme is about the importance of openness in relationships. Throughout the film, only the relationships where people communicate are shown as healthy, both the past and present relationships where people hold back are doomed. An important lesson in life, and not exactly what I expected to be found in a film primarily dealing with older people.

I heartily recommend The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, so when it wanders through the indie theater near you, feel free to drop on by and check it out.

And now the section where I complain about the free screening, because I enjoy looking in the mouths of gift horses! I don’t really care that it was raining outside, it happens, but when we lined up inside, the theater manager had us line up squashed seven people wide while we waited for the free showing people to arrive. This quickly made everyone hot and cranky. Luckily, this audience was also packed with a few rude people. Normally, there are a few weird people at every advanced screening, but they’re usually harmless. This time, we had a few agitators, including the person irate that we weren’t seated for the film over an hour ahead of time and had to wait in line! How awful! And let’s not forget the guy who arrived late and saw seats with coats on them as the owners had left for the bathroom/snacks, then proceeded to demand to know where the owners were from the people sitting next to them. He backed off before someone called security, but seriously, WTF?

Rated 8/10 (manager sign, black power, the mom, the girlfriend, the street kid, the tuktuk, the wife, the untouchable)

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Written by Tars Tarkas

Tars Tarkas

Runs this joint!