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Judy Thorburn's Movie Reviews

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel | Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinsen, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton | Review

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The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

By Judy Thorburn

Some of Britain's finest veteran actors come together in this charming story about seven retired seniors who decide to relocate from England to India with hope of enjoying their twilight years in a more affordable and picturesque environment.


Based on Devorah Moggach's novel, “These Foolish Things, Ol Parker's (Imagine Me and You), screenplay is directed by John Madden and stars Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton, Celia Imrie and Ronald Pickup as a group of seniors that are enticed by a deceptive brochure photo of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, advertised as a luxurious home "for the elderly and beautiful" in Jaipur, India.

Each of the principal characters in the excellent ensemble cast have their own back story. Newly widowed after 40 years of marriage, Evelyn Greenslade (Dench) finds herself left in debt and is forced to sell her house and look for a less expensive lifestyle. Muriel Donnelly (Smith), a cantankerous old racist and retired live-in housekeeper and nanny, decides to travel to India where she can get a cheaper hip replacement. Douglas Ainslie (Nighy), and his ever complaining, nasty wife, Jean (Wilton) are on a limited budget and can't find a decent retirement home, so they decide to move to a more affordable India.  For Graham Dashwood (Wilkinson) who was born and raised in India before moving to England, his reason for returning home is more deeply rooted and personal. Graham is a high court judge in England with a troubling secret he has been harboring for decades. Determined it is time to come to grips with his past, he quits his job, eager to return to his birthplace. And then there are the two singles, each looking for love as they fight the aging process. The ever flirtatious, Madge Hardcastle (Celia Imrie) is on a quest to find a wealthy new husband while Norman Cousins (Ronald Pickup (The Day Of The Jackal), is seeking a relationship with a younger woman, even though they find him too old.

When the group arrive at their destination, they soon realize the hotel is far from the luxurious haven      represented.  The once beautiful palace is run down and in dire need of renovation. For example, the phones don't work, the plumbing is bad and not all the rooms have doors. Owned and run by an optimistic, highly spirited local young man who inherited the establishment from his dead father, Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel, Slumdog Millionaire) is tackling more than he can handle, although he tries his best to keep everyone happy.  What's more, he is forced to deal with his demanding mother who doesn't approve of his sweet and beautiful girlfriend Sunaina (Tena Desae), a call center worker, and has arranged for him to marry someone from a “higher” caste.

As the displaced retirees adjust to their new foreign surroundings, culture and customs, become acquainted and interact with each other, some life lessons are learned from their shared experiences.

All the actors bring something special and sincere to their character, making the most out of every scene as director John Madden (Shakespeare in Love, The Debt) keeps the unfolding story, laced with humor as well as pathos, moving at an even, brisk pace.  In addition, cinematographer Ben Davis (The Debt) beautifully captures the colorful local street atmosphere and day to day life of Jaipur.

With all the action packed, special effects driven, comic book adventures and raunchy comedies hitting the theaters, it is refreshing to be offered a different kind of  “coming of age” adult, comedy drama, especially one that is as touching and heartwarming as this. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel may not   be in the best condition, but those who visit are guaranteed a satisfying experience from beginning to end.

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