Royal thespians strut their regal stuff in Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Listening to this stellar cast speak trippingly on the tongue becomes a kind of lyric to the background rhythms of Bollywood. At last a film celebrating the last years of life in blazing glory set in the joyful splendor of Udaipur, India. Grey hair and wrinkles do not distract from the beauty of these women and the appeal of these men, they merely add to it. This film puts a zoom lens on ageing and laughs at it. After a few minutes, age is no longer an issue. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was made in England, but produced by whom else? Harvey Weinstein.
Also known as The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the Elderly and Beautiful, this movie was directed by John Madden (Shakespeare in Love) and written by Ol Parker. Based on a 2004 novel, These Foolish Things, by Deborah Moggach, it applauds values.
Amidst laughter and gaiety, seven brave seniors face impending death. These British retirees have decided to 'outsource' their retirement to a less expensive and exotic India. Dame Maggie Smith, Dame Judi Dench -- now both in their late seventies -- Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton, Celia Imrie and Ronald Pickup cavort and flirt. Yes, flirt. Love is in the air even at 70.
Muriel (Smith), in a wheelchair, is facing hip surgery. Evelyn (Dench) is a recent widow. Graham (Wilkinson) is a gay judge looking for his first love. Douglas (Nighy) and Jean (Wilton) are unhappily married. Madge (Imrie) and Norman (Pickup) are a delight as they become new lovers, but not each other's. The writing is witty and quick, while the scenery is lush with an abundance of flowers in bold primary colors. Oh, to have been a location scout on this film.
When this band of seven retirees exits England and lands at the Mumbai airport, they are forced to drive by bus to the Marigold Hotel, advertised as a glorious retreat. Instead this group, with Muriel in her wheelchair, discovers the phones are out of order, the hotel is dilapidated and the Indian food is spicy and not what they are used to.
Muriel (Smith) about making plans says, "I can't plan that far ahead. I don't even eat green bananas." Then adds," I did join a gym, but didn't get any fitter. Apparently you have to go."
Sonny (Dev Patel), who is the hotel manager says, "There is no past we can bring back by longing for it. I have a dream to outsource old age. Everything will be all right in the end and if it's not all right, it's not the end." Sonny's aim is "to create a hotel so filled with life, they don't want to die."
During a quarrel Jean says to Douglas, "When I want your opinion, I'll give it to you."
After having been let go as a housekeeper, Muriel says to Sonny, "They said I was too old, no longer useful to them, so I found a flat in the end. My problem was what to do."
Madge adds, "I don't want to grow older to be marginalized, to be the first person let out of the plane in a hostage takeover."
Some of the stories of the couples are predictable and contrived, but this does not detract from the heart of this film; what would detract is Bollywood dancing, and I am glad to report there is none.
Instead, each of these retirees arrives at his or her journey of self discovery. As a viewer I, too, felt I had taken part of the journey along with them and cheered them on their way.
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