Seven Brits in the twilight of their years fly halfway around the world to Jaipur, India to reside in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the Elderly and Beautiful. The film’s magnificent title is supported by a magnificent cast of the best of British thespians, including best buds Maggie Smith and Judi Dench (in their first film together since 2004’s Ladies in Lavender), Bill Nighy (Love Actually), Penelope Wilton (Downton Abbey), Celia Imrie (Nanny McPhee, Calendar Girls), Tom Wilkinson, and Ronald Pickup.
The setting of the film in a tired old palace in the midst of a vibrant, colorful culture is representative of the message of the film as a whole: old people discovering that all the glories of life are still available to them and that new adventures are still to be had after age fifty. It also defiantly proclaims that age and beauty are no longer contradictory states of being. It also bashes the assumption that the elderly are no longer expected to have any sort of sex drive whatsoever. When one character asks her friend whether he thinks it’s safe to have sex at his age, he cheekily replies, “If she dies, she dies!”
Although each of the retirees is motivated by a different set of circumstances, they are united by an intense curiosity about what life has to offer them. We the audience gradually learn about each character’s background as they move forward, discovering their future. The unfoldment of each personal journey is presented in a graceful, natural way that makes this movie a real pleasure.
The hotel is run by Sonny (Dev Patel of Slumdog Millionaire), a young Indian boy who is full of all the vitality, optimism, and naivete of youth. His philosophy of life sustains him through many personal trials and endears him to many of the hotel’s guests: “Everything will be all right in the end. If everything is not all right, then it is not the end.” Although Sonny is charming, his character and his relationship with a young Indian woman lack the depth and development of the older characters.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel fills the senses with India. One can almost smell the spices along with the breathtaking colors and sounds of urban Jaipur. Director John Madden has truly harnessed the essence of India in his upbeat filming in the city, as well as in the camera’s sweeping gaze of the Indian countryside. My friends who accompanied me to the theatre have been to India and other parts of southeast Asia, and they tell me that the movie really caught the hustle and bustle of the overpopulated country, and they they each identified with the Brits’ terror of navigating the city streets and their uncertainty about the cuisine.
|Maggie Smith (in whispered horror):”There’s an Indian in there!”|
Although the major characters in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel are older, this movie is as much about life and culture as it is about growing old. It is hilariously funny while simultaneously being heartwarmingly sincere. I highly recommend this film to anyone who has a sense of humor, a love of color, and a zest for life!