Sunday, 11 March 2012
FILM REVIEW: THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL
20th Century Fox Films
Eat, Pray, Love: The Senior's Edition could be one way to describe The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. A sweet, charming and relatively inoffesnive concoction (save for some cultural stereotyping and casual racism), directed by John Madden and adapted by Ol Parker from a novel by Deborah Moggach, it centres on a disparate group of British seniors who head to India to make the most of their grey pound, and what years they have left.
Evelyn (Judi Dench) is recently widowed and bereft of both a husband and a pension; Graham (Tom Wilkinson) is a high court judge who impulsively decides to pack it all in and return to a country, and a love, he left four decades before; while Douglas and Jean (Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilton) are a not-so-happily married retired couple whose daughter's start-up internet company has pretty much finished their savings.
There are also two singles, Norman (Ronald Pickup) and Madge (Celia Imrie), who've come to India in the hopes of finding love, or more precisely, a sugar daddy for Madge, while Norman hopes to work his way through the Karma Sutra.
And then there's Muriel (Maggie Smith, playing cockney and looking for all the world like Michael Caine in drag) who has come to India on a surgery exchange program for a hip replacement. And you just know it's not the only change the racist old biddy will undergo.
Of course, all of them will undergo some form of transformation or awakening - some as a result of meeting each other - whilst residing at the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, a once glorious now ramshackle hotel operated by Sonny (Dev Patel). He's a young man with a dream of returning the establishment to its former glory, and proving to his disapproving mother and the family of his girlfriend, Sunaina (Tena Desae), that he is worthy of their love and respect.
While no more illuminating than the recent Late Bloomers, which also focussed on the issue of embracing one's golden years, Marigold Hotel is far more entertaining. It's undeniably enjoyable seeing seasoned pros like Dench, Smith, Nighy and Wilkinson having fun.
Granted they never shift out of cruise control (the screenplay never stretches any of the performers nor the audience) but they make the most of what they've been given. Dench and Wilkinson, in particular, manage to invest their characters with some pathos, and Nighy gives one of his least annoying performances ever (I'm not a fan of the lithe, usually too-cool-for-school actor).
Also in cruise control is John Madden. Best known for directing the Oscar-winning Shakespeare In Love (1998)(which DID deserve to win Best Picture over Saving Private Ryan!), the Englishman has only directed four other films before Marigold Hotel; last year's The Debt (also with Wilkinson) the most recent.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel may not induce any great film offers but here's hoping this trip to India is as reinvigorating for Madden's career as it is for his film's characters.