Following a group of British retirees who decide to “outsource” their retirement to less expensive and seemingly exotic India, the newly ‘restored’ Best Exotic Marigold Hotel turns out to be less than advertised.
The crumbling edifice is overseen by the hopeless optimist and even more hopeless manager, Sunny Kapur (Slumdog Millionaire‘s Dev Patel), and India is shabby, vibrant, growing and chaotic in equal measure.
Their dreams of a life of leisure in a reborn Raj broken, the ex-pats – Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Ronald Pickup, Celia Imrie, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton and Tom Wilkinson, have to reassess their lives and find what it is they really want from their declining years.
BEMH plays like a latter-day Ealing comedy, with a first rate cast, a sparkling script and some excellent lines. There are a few surprise turns along the way, although the end point of the feel-good script is exactly where you expect it. Relationships and characters turn around fairly predictably in the last act. And so they should.
Playing in the shadow of E.M. Forster and Merchant-Ivory productions, BEMH is never quite the revisionist portrait of India it wants to be. It plays to many stereotypes of India and, despite the contrast with modern office blocks and call centres, fails to overturn most of them. The truth is the movie needs them to turn in the attractive post-card back-drop of India to bring in the dollars (or should that be ruppees?). The clichés of the arranged marriage and the iron-willed Mummagee may be an India too far for some.
In the hands of this cast, it is forgiveable, as you are caught up in the stories of these twilight travellers. It’s almost impossible to single out any of their very different, but equally engaging performances. Rarely do you get an ensemble cast of this much depth and talent.
We don’t do star ratings; well, we do now. Five. RC
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2012)
Director: John Madden
Writer: Deborah Moggach
Running time: 2 hr. 3 min.
Genre: Drama, Comedy
Cast: Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Ronald Pickup, Celia Imrie, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton, Tom Wilkinson, Dev Patel
Related: Review – Bright Young Things