The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Directed By: John Madden

Starring: Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Dev Patel, Celia Imrie, Ronald Pickup, Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson, and Penelope Wilton

"Everything will be alright in the end.  So if it's not alright, it is not yet the end."
-Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel)

It's the summer blockbuster season once again, and we're at a time when all we get from Hollywood at the end of a hard week is a happy ending.  The world can be destroyed, but filmmakers have to make moviegoers leave on a happy note.  There's nothing inherently wrong with this, but everything doesn't have to end in a good way at the movies.  Based on the Slumdog Millionaire star Dev Patel's quote from the film The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, this is spreading over to the indie market this summer for the time being.

The recently widowed housewife Evelyn Greenslade (Judi Dench) learns that her husband had many debts.  In fact, she has to sell her house to pay them off.  When offered a chance to stay with her son (Jay Villiers), Evelyn chooses to take her own route.  Evelyn is not the only one who can't afford to stay where she is.  Douglas and Jean Ainslie (Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilton) can't afford to retire because Douglas lent their life savings to their daughter for her startup business.  It turns out that their daughter has a habit of not repaying her debts.  Like the other seniors, Muriel Donnelly (Maggie Smith) is on hard times.  The old racist Briton needs a hip.  Not willing to take any medical advice from non-white doctors, the hospital decides to send Muriel to a place where she can get the treatment she needs at a fraction of the cost.

Madge Hardcastle (Celia Imrie) is a woman looking for some action.  Determined to find her next rich husband, she decides to leave the life of babysitting her grandchildren (Ramona and Raoul Marquez) on a daily basis.  Likewise, Norman Cousins (Ronald Pickup) is looking for a little love in his golden years. He wants to feel young again, and climbing the mountain is the only way to do so in his mind.  Finally, we have the Honorable Graham Dashwood (Tom Wilkinson).  He suddenly decides to retire from the bench and search for his former gay lover of his youth. 

All these British retirees end up moving to the Marigold Hotel in India.  However, the relaxing, exotic experience they were promised is not what they get.  The building is quite dilapidated.  Instead of some leisurely lifestyle, they get malfunctioning phones, bad plumbing, and blind optimism from hotel manager Sonny (Dev Patel).  Beyond this, they all have to get acclimated with the culture and cuisine of India, both of which are major adjustments.  Sink or swim, these old folks have to figure out what to do with their twilight years now that they're in India and how to survive The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the Elderly and Beautiful.

Based on the novel These Foolish Things by Deborah Moggach, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a fun ensemble comedy featuring a lot of great seniors in the British acting community.  With Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, and Tom Wilkinson all on set together, you can expect a good movie.  They deliver a consistently funny film that gives us a taste of seniors in an unfamiliar environment after a lifetime of familiarity and complacency.

On the comedic front, there are two people who bring the laughs—Dev Patel and Ronald Pickup.  Patel's Sonny is an optimistic fool hopelessly chasing wealth through the Marigold Hotel and love with his girlfriend Sunaina (Tena Desae).  Nonetheless, he's a funny fool who adds some youth and culture to the film.  Pickup's Norman is the funniest person in this movie.  Determined to be a ladies' man in his old age, Norman is bringing all sorts of hilarity to the film.  Whether speed dating and claiming that he's in his 40s or singing in the shower after climbing the mountaintop, he will keep you laughing whenever he's on screen.

I'm not so interested in all the melodrama around getting old.  Director John Madden does a good job here, but I could really care less.  Give me 40 or 50 years, and I may start to care.  For now, it's pretty worthless to me.  What does interest me in the film is the interaction between two British acting icons—Judi Dench and Maggie Smith.  Their stories do not intertwine throughout most of the flick.  When they finally talk however toward the end of the movie, you can see the nods of respect between two legends.  John Madden milks this moment, and I absolutely love it.  It doesn't get any better than having Dench and Smith on screen together, if only for a couple of minutes.

It's the weekend of ensemble pictures.  With The Avengers lighting up the mainstream box office and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel holding down indie cinemas around the country, we've got some big stars in theaters everywhere.  The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is good, but it's pretty long.  When this comedy-drama passes the two-hour mark, you'll realize it.  Grab a couple of glasses of some White Zinfandel and watch these old folks have some fun on screen.  This flick gets a 0.06% rating.