by Christine Autrand Mitchell
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a retirement community in India where the Brits can “outsource” their “elderly and beautiful.” Directed masterfully by John Madden (The Debt, Shakespeare in Love, Her Majesty, Mrs. Brown) with some of the best older generation actors Britain has to offer: Dame Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Celia Imrie, Penelope Wilton, and I could go on. I’ve been waiting months for this film and it didn’t disappoint.
Don’t let the age of this cast fool you. This is NOT a movie for retirees only. I was very surprised to see mostly older folks, but my friend and I are in our 40s (old in the eyes of my 15 and 11 year old daughters who accompanied us – maybe in case we forgot where the car was parked or our aged lags grew too weak to climb the stairs.) Marigold is a film about our lives, based on Deborah Moggach’s book, These Foolish Things.
Multiple story lines weave flawlessly through the film, starting in England to give us insight into the lives of our characters and why they end up in the Marigold Hotel. There’s a frustrated widow, a recently retired judge with a mission, retired (and poor) civil service employees, a couple of “seekers,” an “outsourced” patient, and more.
Dev Patel plays Sonny Kapoor, the young man with a dream of bringing his father’s dilapidated hotel to spectacular rebirth, of course he has a dream and no practical managerial experience. Are dreams enough?
Marigold was beautifully written by screenwriter Ol Parker. Each character is thoroughly distinct, with his or her flaws, aspirations, frustrations, weaknesses and strengths. As a reflection of real life, some characters bond more with each other than others, and some appreciate the incredible environment they’ve come into more, for their own clear reasons. Ben Davis brings such beautiful cinematography to this film to highlight India’s brilliant colors in clothes and foods, its traditions and architecture.
What Director Madden accomplishes brilliantly isn’t only the depth of each character’s journey or their relationships to those we see and those alluded to, but the clash of tradition with modern society – not just Indian, but universal; the old India versus the new; expectations versus reality; acceptance and rejection; technology versus a simple life; life and death.
Marigold is as beautiful to watch as it is to experience. Yes, it has some predictability, but it is what our hearts demand of it and it delivers so well. The acting and direction is superb. The dialog witty, heartrending and wonderful. It is a story well told and well executed. It is a film for all ages (my kids loved it as much as we did). I highly recommend you enjoy it on a big screen before you get the DVD or BluRay (at the end of June).
Check out a trailer on their website. As of the posting of this review this movie is still playing in some theaters in the Valley.