The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011)

“Nothing happens unless first we dream.”

Today’s movie is one that’s intrigued me since I first saw the trailer quite some time ago. It’s the type of movie that I immediately suspected that I would love, or it would bore me to death. While The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel wound up being not at all what I  expected in terms of its content, and while that content proved to be rather predictable once it was established, I do feel that my initial prediction was proven correct. That is to say, I’m quite sure that I love this movie.

Directed by John Madden, and featuring an first-rate ensemble cast,  the film proved to be one of the more pleasant surprises I’ve experienced in a while, probably since I watched Shakespeare in Love, which appropriately enough, was also directed by Madden.

The retirees meet in transit, and begin to bond with one another when their connecting flight is delayed. Graham (Tom Wilkinson), a recently retired judge who was raised in India emerges as something of a leader for the group and organizes alternative transportation to get them to the hotel.

Upon their arrival the pensioners discover that they are actually the first guests at the hotel, which while located in a fantastic old building, has seen better days. They are given a tour of the facilities by Sonny (Dev Patel), the enthusiastic young co-owner and manager of the hotel. Possessed of boundless optimism, Sonny insists that the hotel’s immaculate condition featured in his marketing materials represents the hotel’s eventual future.

Once settled in, the retirees begin to learn more about themselves, one another, and life in general. The film is actually something of a coming of age movie. While the youthful Sonny experiences a more-or-less traditional coming of age arc. The seniors in the film are also dealing with the trials, tribulations, and self-discovery involved with entering a new phase in their lives.

When I reflect on what I liked about The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, I find myself with a pretty significant list. The movie features a collection of interesting, flawed but likable characters, and is magnificently acted. The characters seem realistic enough, yet still clearly fictional enough to keep the story light. The film does a neat job of treading the line between drama and comedy. There are some deep heartfelt moments, there are moments of laugh-out-loud absurdity, yet they all fit together nicely.

However, what I think I will remember most about the movie is the way it looks. The locations are rich and colorful, there’s this wonderful contrast between the drudgery and decline that the characters are experiencing as the film begins, compared to the vibrancy and new life they discover. It really is a remarkable transformation, and it’s just wonderful to look at it.

Certainly once the premise is established, the character arcs aren’t the most innovative. However, with an ensemble of eight major characters, I don’t think they’re supposed to be. Any one character’s story wouldn’t be enough to make an interesting film. Even two or three would be trite, brief, and/or boring. However, when they’re all woven together we get a whole that is somehow greater than the sum of its parts.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotelis a beautiful motion picture, acted with supreme talent, to tell a story that is simple, yet somehow, I think, universal. I’m left genuinely wishing I could retire to such a place myself. It’s a Must See.

[The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011) – Director: John Madden – Rated PG-13 for sexual content and language]

OM|ED Rating: Must See