British retirees travel to India to take up residence in what they believe is a newly restored hotel. Less luxurious than its advertisements, the Marigold Hotel nevertheless slowly begins to charm in unexpected ways.
"India, India, India, five letters, three syllables flows off the tongue, adheres to the mind, is an aphrodisiac for many, venom for a few; India, a country of extremes, either embraces or repels; neutrality, anathema."
I wrote this summary after my third visit to this country that has imprisoned my spirit and continues to lure me back to its infinitesimal mysteries and attractions. It was with tremendous anticipation that I clamored to see "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" (for the elderly and beautiful); it happily exceeded my expectations.
Seven Brits, recognizing the perils of sinking into their dotage, find, via the Internet, the reasonable Marigold Hotel in Jaipur, India. They go for a myriad of issues: health, shrinking finances, seeking lost love, or just to step "outside the box" of inevitable stagnation.
Director John Madden ("Shakespeare in Love", "The Debt", based on the novel "These Foolish Things" by Deborah Moggach) gives us a pecan, a delectable treat to savor long after imbibing, improving with a second helping. Every character is beautifully defined, refined, original but recognizable: Judi Dench, gives a legendary performance as a vulnerable, debt-ridden widow, seeking employment in a call-center (an iconic scene revolves around her instructions to the young, nubile Indians on how to snag the attention of the surly, distracted "victim" at the opposite end of the line); through her "blog" she unveils her transformation, challenges, heartaches; Maggie Smith is the bad-tempered, avid misanthrope, needing a hip replacement, who inadvertently lends dignity to an "untouchable"; Tom Wilkinson, a barrister, returns after a forty-year hiatus to seek "the love of his life"; Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilton give pivotal performances as a couple who have reached the nadir of their relationship, one succumbs to India’s charms, the other withers.
The Marigold Hotel, its condition of decrepitude and /or rehabilitation is an apt metaphor for this unlikely crew of expats (they improve or regress in tandem with the hotel) and its incorrigible, inept proprietor "Sonny" (grand performance by Dev Patel, "Slumdog Millionaire") who in his delusional fantasies envisions the Marigold as the perfect segway, the final phase into the vast unknown.
Regardless of your chronological state "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" depicts a realistic, hilarious, joyful, unabashed romp of filmmaking at its pinnacle. I have always cringed at the insipid platitude: "you are as young as you think or feel" or those detested emails, gloating over the liberties in diet, dress, speech, etc. that are now allowed because you have exceeded the expiration date on restraints or civility. Age should bring sangfroid, levity and the simple pleasure, as one friend appropriately expressed "of waking up on the right side of the ground".
"The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" deserves a universal audience and stellar accolades for all people and places involved.
FOUR & 1/2 STARS!!!!