The Flick Chicks

Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel | Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith | Review

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  3_Chicks_Small Jacqueline Monahan

Jacqueline  Monahan

Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also an entertainment reporter for
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The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel | Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith | Review

The cast and premise is charming.  Sometimes the film is as well.

A group of British seniors take up residence in the titular hotel in Jaipur, India, each one searching for something that’s been missing from their ordinary, unfulfilling lives.

Recent widow Evelyn Greenslade (Judi Dench) is a homemaker who never held a job or as we find out later, an honest conversation with her late husband.

Xenophobe Muriel Donnelly (Maggie Smith) needs a hip replacement but doesn’t trust foreigners – or their strange food – and she’s not afraid to tell them so.

Unhappily married Jean and Douglas Ainslie (Penelope Wilton and Bill Nighy) arrive with vastly different expectations of colorful, mystical, impoverished India.

Retired magistrate Graham Dashwood (Tom Wilkinson) searches for the lost love of his youth, an Indian man for whom the long-ago affair caused damaging repercussions.

Singles Madge Hardcastle and Norman Cousins (Celia Imrie and Ronald Pickup) long for new life partners – as long as it’s not the two of them who wind up together.

Then there’s the Marigold Hotel itself, run by young, inept but well-meaning
Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel).  The rundown establishment is missing doors and working phones, but not Sonny’s wild enthusiasm and verbal embellishments.  He’s got both mother and girlfriend problems – plus the hotel is about to be taken away from him.  Poor Sonny lacks business savvy but is the last one to realize it.

Sonny’s intrepid guests spend many weeks in their new environment where their evolution into brave, new, enlightened souls takes place.  Sonny finds his own youthful self swept up in the changes.  It’s almost like a contagious, airborne virus that bestows happy endings, swiftly and completely.

Suddenly, long-held beliefs are changed instantly.  A character who wouldn’t touch any form of Indian cuisine (and says so) bites into a sauce-covered Naan.  A mother objects to her son’s choice for a girlfriend and bride, but after two lines of dialogue, she relents and the ban is lifted.  Transformations are unbelievably swift.

The dialogue is littered with tired clichés.  For example, one character actually says, “When I want your opinion I’ll give it to you.”  Another, referring to her advanced age and lack of time, declares, “I don’t even buy green bananas.”  Both of these quips have been around for ages, but that doesn’t make it okay to stuff them in the mouths of distinguished older actors, just inane.  Then there’s the character taken away suddenly by a medical condition because it seems, it is convenient and a cautionary tale to the others to grab that brass ring (my cliché, for once).

Screenwriter Ol Parker adapted the Deborah Moggach novel so I don’t know if those were already written into the dialogue – but it still detracts from the stellar cast to include them here.

Dench, Nighy, Wilkinson and Smith wield their formidable screen presences around the story and score some heartfelt flourishes.  Patel’s Sonny is a loud, wild, passionate foil for the stoic Brits.  India itself is one of the stars, both siren-like in its exotic appeal and off-putting with its crowded, desperate conditions.

Director John Madden (Shakespeare in Love) offers up lovely scenery and locations for his talented cast to discover, but like an ambitious juggler, tries to keep too many balls in the air at once; likewise the tidy resolutions that line up like dominoes detract from savoring the bittersweet reality of aging life issues.  When the instant gratification of cinematic fairy tale sensibility is applied too liberally, it takes away from the real-life feel of the story.  Authentic angst does not disappear so conveniently.

It is a movie of fresh starts, unfinished business, and regrets, one of them being that the script is nowhere near as brilliant as the cast it features.

Three Chicks

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