New Release: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
As Dylan has so graciously pointed out several times, we here at Reel Insight LOVE old British actors, so there was no way I could pass up an opportunity to see a film chock-a-block full of them.
The film revolves around a group of seven senior citizens (Judy Dench, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Maggie Smith, Penelope Wilton, Ronald Pickup, and Celia Imrie) no longer satisfied with life in London. The seven decide to travel to India, moving into The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel "for the elderly and beautiful." Each is searching for something different, whether it be adventure, love or just the affordable means to grow old. Also thrown into the mix is the hotel's very young, cheerful, but naive, Sonny (Dev Patel) who is in over his head with running the business and loving a girl of whom his mother doesn't approve.
Despite my decades long age gap from the target demographic, it was impossible for me not to enjoy The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. The main ensemble of characters is delightful, and though most of them are in this situation due to somber circumstances (death of a spouse, hefty loss of retirement funds, desperate need of surgery) a lot of humor comes from the fish-out-of-water plot and without callously mocking the surrounding culture. The laughs come from the group's misgivings and insecurities about their new life in India, particularly from an aggressively racist Maggie Smith, something I never thought I'd see.
The film also does an excellent job of balancing all the characters' stories, so no one feels "thrown in," which is a common problem in films with so many different subplots. Not all seven are given the same amount of backstory, but it isn't always needed either. Of course there are some downer moments, because you can't have seven elderly folks in a story like this and expect them all to live, but there's no melodrama to it. It just is and it's easy to accept it as such.
When the film missteps, and it does, it's more for the younger characters. Despite Dev Patel'ls charming performance, Sonnny's issues tend to weigh the film down a bit. It's understandable that his issues with financing the hotel are present, because the place is a dump and the uncertainty that it will remain open affects everyone, but the time spent on his love story was unnecessary and the entire problem resolves far too easily for it to have been relevant in the first place, leaving the feeling that Sonny is fighting the rest of the cast for screen time.
There is a lot to enjoy in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel; however, although my youth didn't stop me from enjoying the film, it did prevent me from relating to the characters' situation, and in the end the film didn't resonate beyond a surface level appreciation. I'd easily label it with a "Glad I saw it, but doesn't require multiple visits" distinction. At least not for a few more decades.