In The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel eight British pensioners are tempted away from their native country with the promise of a free flight to India and the chance to live out their retirements in a luxury hotel. On arrival they find the hotel is in disrepair and run by a young man called Sonny (Dev Patel). Over time the group grow to either love or loathe their new home, Sonny battles to keep his vision of an extraordinary retirement home afloat and each senior citizen goes on their own unique journey.
With such a large cast of British acting royalty the film is at risk of feeling fragmented as at least seven separate stories are told, but somehow it works. The various characters are each seeking something different; a lost love, sex, life after the loss of a partner, a new hip, a rich husband or to save their marriage. What links them together, and highlights their differences, is India itself. The country is photographed beautifully and the film is filled with vibrant colours, a myriad of sounds, and various exotic smells. Perhaps the smells were only in my mind. The characters learn to cope with their new surroundings with varying degrees of success, some thriving amongst the new experiences and others shying away from the terrifying world outside the hotel.
The various story threads bring with them a nice mix of humour, drama and even a little romance. The trailer may have sold the film as a slightly faster paced comedy than it is, but The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel still has plenty of laughs spread across its running time. What the film also offers, that perhaps the trailer does not showcase enough, is plenty of heartfelt moments and plots that go a little deeper than most light comedies allow. It doesn’t hurt that every role is filled by a beloved British face, from Judi Dench to Maggie Smith, from Bill Nighy to Tom Wilkinson, and from Penelope Wilton to Celia Imrie. With talent like this given the rare opportunity to strut their stuff in leading roles the two-hour running time flies by and at the end I wanted to check into the Marigold Hotel and stay a little while longer.
With an older cast and a gentler approach to comedy than is normally seen on the big screen, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is not going to excite everyone. I overheard a fellow critic at my screening suggesting that perhaps it would be preferred by an older audience, but speaking as a 23-year-old I recommend this film as proof that you don’t have to be the same age as the cast to find this film funny.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a gentle comedy with a lot of heart. The visuals were stunning and cast of British legends were wonderful to watch in their element. It was enough to make me want to whisk Judi Dench off to India and retire in a dilapidated hotel.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is on general release on 24th February 2012.