Movie Review: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (PG13, 123min)Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Ye old greats
Maggie Smith in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
"It's Eat Pray Love for old people," declared my colleague after she watched The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, by Shakespeare In Love director John Madden. And she wouldn't be entirely wrong. In quite a few ways, it's the same. It's based on a book, boasts an A-list cast, and features the "oh-so-wonderfully-different" locale of beautiful India-done travelogue style. But in just as many ways, it's better.
For starters, the book the film is based on - Deborah Moggach's 2004 novel These Foolish Things - is much less maudlin and meandering than Elizabeth Gilbert's 2006 memoir. And even as surface shallow as the film appears to be, with its westernised sheen on the exoticness of our striking South Asian neighbours, it's a way more agreeable and uplifting rite-of-passage film to watch.
And that's all thanks to the pedigree cast made up of the creme de la creme of British acting royalty, which include Oscar winner and James Bond regular Dame Judi Dench; character actor Bill Nighy; the always dependable Oscar-nominated, Golden Globe- and Emmy-winning Tom Wilkinson; and of course, Dame Maggie Smith, currently winning praise on TV's Downton Abbey. The all-star cast tells the story of seven pensioners who, for various personal reasons, relocate from the United Kingdom to a retirement hotel in India run by an excitable Dev Patel (of Slumdog Millionaire fame), lured by a brochure that promises exotic yet sophisticated comfort for a modest fee.
Truth be told, the script leaves much to be desired, with stereotypes, jokes and overall direction that are handled way too broadly. Thankfully, the performances alone lift Marigold up enough to help overcome the obvious flaws in the story. Predictable? Yes. But there is more than enough charm to make this enjoyable - even if you don't belong to the septuagenarian set. Standouts are, of course, Dench and Wilkinson, who deftly balance comic timing alongside dramatic gravitas, as they go through their own personal journeys. But it is, as expected, Dame Maggie, who completely steals the show as the cockney bigot. After seven Baftas, two Oscars, two Golden Globes, two Emmys, two SAG awards, a Laurence Olivier Award and a Tony, she once again proves why she's undoubtedly one of the most successful and acclaimed actors of this era.