Mark Reviews Movies

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel


2 Stars (out of 4)

Director: John Madden

Cast: Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton, Dev Patel, Celia Imrie, Ronald Pickup, Tom Wilkinson, Maggie Smith, Tena Desae, Lillete Dubey

MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for sexual content and language)

Running Time: 2:04

Release Date: 5/4/12

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Review by Mark Dujsik | May 3, 2012

If you put this many people of a certain age together in one place, it's inevitable that one of them will die. That's not my thought (Although I'll admit to thinking something similar a few times during the movie) but a paraphrase of a character's narration in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. At least the movie isn't a series of scenes in which the characters get into situations where we actively begin to wonder whether or not said situations will result in death. Then again, there is the scene of an elderly man dancing in the shower with repeated close-ups of his feet on the slippery floor.

Instead, the movie gives us a septet of senior citizens, all of them at a crossroads in their respective lives. Evelyn Greenslade (Judi Dench) is recently widowed and does not know where to start the process of moving on with her life. The opening scene is a fine, if obvious, little vignette of this: The bustle of life outside the window of Evelyn's apartment pulling back to see her stuck on hold with her Internet service provider. In the end, she can't do anything; the account is in her husband's name.

Graham Dashwood (Tom Wilkinson) is a judge who has had enough of his work and holds a secret from his younger days that he both lovingly remembers and regrets. Douglas and Jean Ainslie (Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilton) are in financial trouble after Douglas invested the money from his retirement fund to help their daughter start her own company. She promised results; they're still waiting.

Muriel Donnelly (Maggie Smith) is a blatant racist with hip problems. She needs surgery to replace it, but the waiting list is long. Norman Cousins (Ronald Pickup) is searching for any woman who would give him a second look, just so he can recapture his youth through sex, while Madge Hardcastle (Celia Imrie) is looking for the latest in a string of husbands (some to whom she's been married, the old joke goes). She needs to escape the confines of being a grandmother and babysitting for her daughter and her son-in-law.

Conveniently, they all discover the promise of the "Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (for the Elderly & Beautiful)" in India online and separately make arrangements to go at the same time—on the same flight, no less. They latch on to each other—some more than others—and begin to share their stories with any character within earshot whenever the spirit moves them (Even a character with whom they really have had no prior relationship during their time at the hotel).

Douglas and Jean's marriage is on the rocks. Douglas and Evelyn have an easy way of talking to each other. Jean thinks Graham is just the kind of man she would like to meet while on a trip to a foreign country; she spends her days sitting at the hotel, reading a book, while the rest go out to explore. Graham, a lifelong bachelor, isn't interested in Jean; the secret of his past life involves another man.

Norman and Madge look for love (Let us be grateful Ol Parker's screenplay, based on Deborah Moggach's novel, doesn't fall back on putting them together, even when it seems to be going that way). Muriel's bigotry is tested when one of the hotel's local employees invites Muriel to her home. The hotel's manager Sonny (Dev Patel) has his own problems: The hotel is a failure (He can put a positive spin on everything: When one of the visitors does die, he happily notes that a room with an actual door has opened up), his mother (Lillete Dubey) keeps bringing up his more successful brothers, and she definitely doesn't approve of his girlfriend (Tena Desae).

All the while, Evelyn's blog entries provide the narration that tells us everything we're meant to learn from the characters' adventures. Each has their own neatly arrived-to revelations about their lives, except for Jean, who is only here for conflict (The evidence is in her arrival to satisfaction, which only comes from an external event). They have nice, pat monologues, delivered with the camera framing them just so, to prove it.

It's perhaps too easy for us to excuse such slight material as The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel because of the actors within it. Yes, the actors here deliver the monologues (and a few scenes of dialogue doing the same job) with verve, but these aren't characters. They alternate between speechmaker and sounding board for another's speech.

Copyright © 2012 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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