Now Playing: ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’

The film begins by introducing us to each of its characters in mini-chapter form. In quick succession we meet seven Brits with one "issue" a piece beyond the financial problems driving them to a foreign country: Evelyn (Oscar winner Dame Judi Dench) has lost her husband and realizes she's never worked in her life; Douglas (Bill Nighy from Notes on a Scandal) and Jean (Penelope Wilton from Downton Abbey) have an obviously unhappy marriage — he's chill, she's uptight; Norman the womanizer (the aptly named Ronald Pickup) is quite lonely; Madge (Celia Imrie) is also lonely and wants to marry a rich man; Muriel (Oscar winner Dame Maggie Smith) is racist and feels useless; and Graham (Oscar nominee Tom Wilkinson) retires suddenly. Graham's "issue" the movie withholds for awhile but something is drawing him to India.

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So off they go to "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" which is not at all what they were expecting. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, on the other hand, is exactly the kind of movie you expect. It's not that there are no surprises in its juggling of seven to ten separate story threads but that it always moves in the same general direction and pace and tone for each of them. The screenplay gives you two handfuls of neatly packaged problems and it keeps telling you, through Sonny's favorite saying, that it will resolve them all.

"Everything will be all right in the end. So if it's not all right, it's not the end."

In one recurring gag Muriel is terrified to eat anything in India "If I can't pronounce it, I don't want to eat it." but she should rest assured that the only thing this movie is serving is comfort food.  

Exotic-denchThis is not to say that there is no depth or pleasure. The actors are strong enough to elevate the light material and some of the performance notes sting when they should (Maggie to the rescue!) . One of the storylines in particular will interest gay audiences and there are solid warm laughs sprinkled in. Dench, who is the central character despite the ensemble structure, does her best work since Notes on a Scandal… (though she's nowhere near that brilliant). But unfortunately the movie isn't strong enough to sustain it's two hour plus running time as it moves through its problem resolving final act, checking off its story boxes one-by-one.

I went, as I imagine many people will, for some Quality Dame Time and I got it so I shouldn't complain. But my mind was truly wandering. It wasn't just Downton Abbey Season 3 anxiety distracting me in that final third. Hey, that's Notes on a Scandal's Barbara giggling and glowing when paired off with her beloved Sheba's husband Bill Nighy!? That is so wrong. Hey, why didn't they reunite both Slumdog stars for Sonny's B plot romance?  As everything became all right in the end, I'd long since checked out of the Marigold Hotel and had created an elaborate television fantasy instead wherein Dames and BFFs Judi & Maggie had their own daily reality show where they gossiped about Hollywood, James Bond, Harry Potter and the West End over tea. Judi uses sweetener but Maggie likes hers bitter.

Wouldn't you DVR the hell out of that?

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Nathaniel Rogers would live in the movie theater but for the poor internet reception. He blogs daily at the Film Experience. Follow him on Twitter @nathanielr.

Comments

  1. antisaint says

    I saw this last weekend on a whim when I missed an earlier show of another movie. Very good film! I did get the “so how much more is there?” feeling towards the end — it could’ve been 20-30 minutes shorter — but still, a very great film, funny, and the cast was great, of course.

  2. agcons says

    Thanks for the travel tip, Nike Zoom Etc. but as a gay man I don’t need to go anywhere near Dubai.

    Also, I would rent anything I could get from Dev Patel.

  3. MarkUs says

    I loved watching the two dames in “Room With a View” talking together (“Oh, Eleanor!”) and would love a show where they just shot the bull. Poor Dame Judi came out as going blind I had read.

  4. MarkUs says

    I loved watching the two dames in “Room With a View” talking together (“Oh, Eleanor!”) and would love a show where they just shot the bull. Poor Dame Judi came out as going blind I had read.

  5. jamal49 says

    RE: the question regarding Dev Patel. The answer is “yes” but my hope is that I could rent a room WITH Dev Patel. For a week. Just Dev and me. Room service all the way.

  6. Andreas says

    I really liked this film. I thought Dench was particularly excellent, but can’t say the same about Smith. When will she stop playing the same uptight, bitter posh woman? She’s been playing the same character since Gosford Park. Anyway, I was surprised by how moving the film can be and totally recommend it.

  7. Pete n SFO says

    I saw it last night… I forgive the few formulaic moments, because it was very enjoyable.

    It made me want to read the book from which it was adapted.

    (and it made me want to move to Mexico!)

  8. Squeak says

    Everyone carries on about Dame Judi and Maggie S but really by now they are just the same characters in everything; their “acting” cannot transcend their own screen personalities. The rest of the cast was better, individually and together, and Dev is worth any Passage to India :-)