The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011)

Happy endings?

You’re distressed, tired of the unwelcome surprises that life brings you, you’re sometimes lonely and reaching the age when you do not have much hope left for better things to come – so what better way to overcome the blues than an escape to India? Seven retirees seek refuge from their problems in the luxurious Indian Marigold Hotel – a solution that would be unthinkable for pensioners from my own country, but which is apparently quite feasible for UK citizens.

Upon their arrival Evelyn (Dame Judi Dench), Graham (Tom Wilkinson), Douglas (Bill Nighy), Muriel (Maggie Smith), Norman (Ronald Pickup), Jean (Penelope Wilton) and Madge (Celia Imrie) are welcomed by energetic young entrepreneur Sonny (Dev Patel) in a hotel that is not exactly the best, but is definitely exotic. Far from a dream (and what was promised in the brochure), the ruined hotel has broken equipment, rooms without doors, no phone connection and bankruptcy looming. The reality of life in India is not exactly what you would expect from the colourful pictures and ads, which promised a wonderful inexpensive paradise for retirees.

Nevertheless, most of the guests adapt to local conditions and start looking for a way to tackle their problems, and they have many – marital issues, loneliness, the death of spouses, long-lost love. But that’s just life, isn’t it? As with every slightly over-sugared movie, everyone manages to get through and find the right path. Of course, in a group of elderly people there is sooner or later the first one to go. But he goes peacefully, after achieving his life goal, and finishes his days in the place in which he once found love. The hotel guests also face the societal problems of the modern yet traditional country, with Sonny as their guide in the exotic reality of India.

It is not much of a spoiler if I tell you that in this movie, which teaches us about never-ending hope and taking chances at any point in your life, everything ends well. The plot and structure are neither surprising nor innovative, however it is an interesting idea for director John Madden (Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (2001)) to create a story of elderly people with real ‘grown-up’ problems, which give the movie a fresh touch and allowed him to cast some amazing actors – they are the cream of the crop, and fascinating personalities to watch.

Not only skilled in the art of acting, they have a certain class and the force of character engendered by experience and knowledge. It was a real pleasure to see Dench, Smith, Wilkinson and Nighy together on screen, and I would recommend the movie, if only to admire the artistry of their work.

124 mins.

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