The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
In film the elderly tend to get about as much focus as they do in life. They're often marginalized, even belittled by younger generations, intentionally or unintentionally. With "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel," we get a rare film that focuses on the hopes and dreams of those who are still hoping and dreaming well into their golden years. Evelyn (Judi Dench) recently lost her husband and can only pay off his debts by selling their home. Graham (Tom Wilkinson) is a newly retired high court judge carrying an old emotional scar. Norman (Ronald Pickup) is endlessly enthusiastic, if slightly clueless, in his quest for love. Madge (Celia Imrie), wants to shake things up in her life, leaving her bad marriages behind her. Muriel (Maggie Smith) is an unabashedly racist woman in need of a hip replacement. Douglas and Jean (Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilton, last seen as a married couple in "Shaun of the Dead") have lost their savings due to a bad investment in their daughter's internet startup and are openly struggling in their marriage. These strangers are brought together during a trip from Britain to India where they end up staying at the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the Elderly and Beautiful. Sonny (Dev Patel, "Slumdog Millionaire") is the young owner of the dilapidated hotel, and while he may possess no business sense whatsoever, he has a passion for transforming his hotel (handed down to him from his father) into a place so wonderful that its guests "will refuse to die." The only thing he loves more than his hotel is his girlfriend Sunaina (Tena Desae), who seems to be the only person who really believes in him. Based on a novel by Deborah Moggach, "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" is written by Ol Parker and directed by John Madden (the one who made "Shakespeare in Love," not the one guy who used to shout, "BOOM!" and draw yellow circles on your television). It's a film that I very much wanted to like and one that really does have many good qualities. The cast is terrific across the board and Parker and Madden have a respect for their characters and for the elderly that isn't often seen on film. The movie falters due to its often by the numbers nature. It's not so much predictability as it is familiarity that's the issue. So much of what these characters experience feels as though it's come from many other movies before it. It lessens the emotional impact of many dramatic moments as well as the effectives of the comedic elements. What you get is a perfectly pleasant movie but one that you know full well had the potential to be much better than it is. This isn't helped by its length. It isn't the length itself that's the problem, it's the way the movie keeps stretching itself out. At 2 hours and 4 minutes and with almost as many endings as the third "Lord of the Rings" it's at least 20 minutes longer than it needs to be. While I appreciate that each character is developed and deserves to have his or her own story told without being shortchanged, it all just adds up to being too much. Each character's own story could have made a very good film so it's a shame they're all stuffed into the same movie. "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" is not a movie I would recommend to those who were not already interested but if you have been wanting to see it then you certainly should. There are some very good elements here. I wish they could have worked together to make a great film. 6.5/10.