Published on Wednesday, 01 August 2012 09:45 Written by Ketlan Ossowski
Subtle, funny, charming, colourful and very slightly eccentric
A group of British retirees travel to India to take up residence in what they believe is a newly restored hotel. Less luxurious than its advertisements, the Marigold Hotel nevertheless slowly begins to charm in unexpected ways.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: a comedy/drama, released in the UK Feb 2012. Directed by John Madden. Starring Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Celia Imrie, Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson, Dev Patel, Ronald Pickup and Penelope Wilton.
There's no getting away from it; every country on earth has a certain style of film-making. Hollywood, as an example, doesn't produce the same type of movie as Bollywood, while Russian films are by no means identical to French. British films are no exception and gems like A Passage to India, The King's Speech, Room with a View, Chariots of Fire and those wonderful post-war Ealing comedies have deserved their many accolades.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is then, a typically British film, a genteel and gentle romp through the colourful chaos of urban India.
Packed with the brightest (and oldest) of our stars, it describes the retirement of a disparate group of Brits who, for different reasons, move out to Jaipur, to the ramshackle splendour of the run-down Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, run by Sunny (Dev Patel), the youngest son of an authoritarian and disapproving mother.
One of the best parts of the film for me was the way that sections were linked by voiceovers from Judi Dench, blogging to her family back home. Here's an example:
'Marigold Hotel, Jaipur, day nine. Old habits die easier than we think, and new ones form. No longer do I reach out in the morning for Radio Four. My news comes instead from the Jaipur Herald. Soon, I might even become accustomed to the storm of car horns and vendors. Can there be anywhere else in the world that is such an assault on the senses? Those who know the country of old, just go about their business but nothing can prepare the uninitiated for this riot of noise and colour, for the heat, the motion, the perpetual teeming crowds.'
This adds to the beauty of the film as the scenes unfold, making the whole film, if nothing else, into a homage both to old age and India itself.
There were, sadly, a couple of jarring notes for me. One of these was the character of Sunny, the manager of the hotel, played largely as a likeable Indian caricature, naive and a little foolish while overly eager to please, who is in love with Sunaina (Tena Desae) of whom his stern mother disapproves. The other was the ease with which one of the British characters got a job in a workplace where everyone had to be educated to graduate level, despite her lack of educational attainment.
Neither of these scenarios seemed likely to me - a fool couldn't run a hotel (at least not for long), no matter how successful or otherwise it may be, and I'd be surprised if anyone could just walk in off the street and get a job anywhere, at least without a nightmarish fight for a visa or work permit. Watch the film - it's certainly worth watching - and you may or may not agree.
These two points aside though, the film is all you would expect it to be with its fine assortment of actors, its utterly beautiful locations and the stories that unfold around them for a wonderful two solid hours.
With my two exceptions, which you shouldn't allow to stop you watching it, I loved it. It came across as rich, funny, thoughtful and a feast for the eyes. Not many films can manage to be any of those nowadays - the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel does it all.
Four out of five stars for me. Well worth seeing.