MFR Rating: ★ ★ ★
It’s nice to find a movie not afraid to use older actors, although the cast of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel certainly does feature some of the most distinguished members of British acting royalty: Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy and Tom Wilkinson. It is a film about older people moving away from Britain and towards unfamiliar terrain in an effort to try and “find themselves”, an idea which might not immediately drag people to the cinemas but coupled with that cast list then it at least gives itself a fighting chance.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is directed by John Madden, best known for Shakespeare in Love. For a variety of reasons, a group of retired Brits each decide to try something different and spend their later years in the newly restored Marigold Hotel in India, tempted by the cheaper and more exotic location. It essentially feels like a travelogue movie featuring characters all feeling rather lost in their later life and seeking to find a bit of direction in the unfamiliar Indian madness. Whilst learning the local culture, each resident embarks on a rather mild and vaguely touching voyage of self-discovery.
If I had to use a single word to describe this film it would be ‘gentle’. The comedy is a little quaint and a long way from hilarious but not without its charm. I particularly enjoyed Dev Patel’s performance as the rather excessively enthusiastic, young manager of the hotel. His performance is rather over the top but there was something about his character’s joy for life that felt extremely endearing .
There are some nice subplots such as Graham (Tom Wilkinson) reuniting with a former lover and Douglas (Bill Nighy) trying to cope with his struggling marriage. Unfortunately it’s the direction of the character arcs that often feel incredibly forced and telegraphed, for example Muriel (Maggie Smith) is introduced as a grumpy old racist and I think we can all tell exactly what kind of person she’s going to be by the end of the movie, with the bare minimum provided to make the transformation feel believable.
At over two hours it really does feel like it drags on somewhat, with my interest certainly not kept for the duration. In a few of ways it could have done with being tightened. One or two fewer characters, a good 20 minutes shaved off the running time and the character endings could have been rewritten to feel bit more organic. But despite its faults, it’s a nice take on getting old and a film in which I’m sure many will take pleasure.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is out on 24th February in the UK. Running time 125 mins. Certificate 12a (UK).
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Review by David Rank