THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL – The Review
Well, just a week after THE AVENGERS broke box office records here’s another big team-up movie. Instead of super-heroes teaming up, this film showcases a great group of British actors of, uh….a certain age. When these vets get a great script the results can be just as engaging as any CGI-enhanced mayhem. Actually I was reminded a bit of the original COCOON. Of course there’s no glowing E.T.s, but these mature folks do encounter people of a somewhat alien culture, and their lives are changed radically ( no magic breakdancing, though ). Let’s take a cinematic getaway with some familiar film friends and check into THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL ( for the elderly and beautiful ).
In the first scenes of John ( SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE ) Madden’s new work we met the Brits who’ll be sharing a long journey and become the residents of the mentioned hotel. Evelyn ( Judi Dench ) is a recent widow whose late husband hid their true financial worth from her. Graham ( Tom Wilkinson ) is a judge who’s tired of the legal world, ready to retire and return to the site of his happier youth. Muriel ( Maggie Smith ) is a cranky, xenophobic former housekeeper who must travel abroad for a needed surgery. Douglas ( Bill Nighy )is a recent government retiree who must find a cheaper place to settle after a poor investment, much to the chagrin of his frustrated wife Jean ( Penelope Wilton ). Two of the travelers are on the prowl for new partners : the randy Norman ( Ronald Pickup ) and the upwardly mobile Madge ( Celia Imrie ). After viewing the hotel’s website and gorgeous brochures, this group make the long trek to India. At the end of the arduous trip, they arrive at a ramshackle structure that does not resemble the lush photos. The enthusiastic young owner Sonny ( Dev Patel ) assures them that everything will be finished soon. He’s inherited the place from his late father and is determined to restore it to its former glory ( and then be able to marry his beautiful girlfriend ). Over the next few weeks, while settling in, the residents explore the city and attempt to start a new life in their exotic surroundings.
Madden does a terrific job of moving the story along and showing us this colorful land, but it’s the cast that makes this trip come alive. The always delightful Dench glows as a woman who, after being taken care of most of her adult life, blossoms when she takes a chance in the bustling city. Wilkinson delivers another strong, engaging performance as a man regaining his joy for life while revisiting the locale where he was most happy as a youth. Fans of TV’s ” Downtown Abbey ” will relish seeing Smith as the surly, cynical wheelchair-bound woman who finally allows a bit of sunlight to break though her tough, hard shell. Nighy’s terrific as a man determined to find adventure and fun despite his wife’s pessimistic attitude. His zest for this new place is contagious. Imrie and Pickup both generate big laughs while they’re looking for love ( or a nice romp in the boudoir ) in this unfamiliar place. Patel brings a lot of energy to the young manager’s role ( sometimes too much energy ) and is often exhausting, but his character finally mellows out. This film shows that life and adventure is not over once you reach those golden years, that retirement may be more of a beginning. This message and this cast helps make THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL, a most pleasurable film vacation destination.
Overall rating: 4 Out of 5 Stars