The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

“Everything will be alright in the end. So if it’s not alright, it is not yet the end.” -Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel)

A group of Brits are persuaded to travel to more affordable India and retire in a hotel that turns out to be far less luxurious than they had imagined. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is an undeniably pleasant affair. Sunny optimism aside, this inspirational slice-of-life is pabulum for the septuagenarian set. It panders to the most common desires of its target demographic without shame. If teen boys are the audience for the Transformers movies, then this is manna from heaven for the over-50 crowd.

Critiquing this tale is like finding fault in a clown‘s circus act. It means well. It only seeks to inspire warm fuzzies and to an extent, it succeeds. The cast is uniformly excellent. I freely admit I love seeing Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith, and Tom Wilkinson in anything. They are masters of their craft and can take even the most simplistic material and make it seem like Shakespeare. Their acting abilities certainly aren’t tested here. Lesser known, but equally talented Celia Imrie, Ronald Pickup, and Penelope Wilton also contribute significantly to the proceedings. It is because of these 7 that this almost, ALMOST, won me over. There is a scene early on where the 7 of them are sitting at an airport about to embark on what promises to be a major journey to India. It was at that moment I thought, “Oh this is going to be fun.”

Unfortunately the promise of their unique journeys of self discovery never met my expectations. The script simply isn’t as good as the cast. Each time some minor conflict arises and we’re given actual drama, the conflict is oversimplified and quickly resolved. I wont spoil the details of the trajectories of the various characters. But have no fear! All potential conflicts are consistently addressed one after the other in routine fashion sometimes within the very same scene. The plot predictably limps along to an insipid conclusion. Then there’s the hotel owner. Dev Patel of Slumdog Millionaire fame portrays the hotel’s amiable young host, whose primary goal is to provide a gracious retirement community for our group in India. Patel brings a substantial enthusiasm to a role with dialogue that has all the depth of a fortune cookie. His thick accent is so exaggerated, he’s practically a cartoon. It borders on offensive. As the story progressed, he grew so incredibly cloying, I dreaded his every appearance. Apu from the Simpsons is a comparatively nuanced character and I say that without humorous  intent.

If one is willing to put up with stereotypes and clichéd events, then there is some enjoyment to be had in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. That cast goes a long way in making this much better than it should have been. However if you demand a bit more from your comfort food entertainment, you just might find yourself struggling to stay awake.

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8 Responses to “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”

  1. Ok this is one of those films I fell for. I loved all the actors, and ate up all the scenarios. I had fun.

  2. Mark, you’re by far the most unpredictable writer I read, and I mean that as a compliment. I get your reviews in the email blast, so while I’m waiting for whatever device I’m on to load the review, the poster, and the star rating, I quickly take a guess on what grade you’ll give that film, sometimes even a secondary guess.

    I predicted a 3-star, if not, a 3.5-star grade from you for this one, but as usual, I was wrong. I like getting shocked so much, honestly. This seemed (to me, at least) like a film you’d enjoy. But that’s only looking at the promises of the trailer. So I guess, after reading your writeup, they forgot to follow through on some of those promises that they manages to fit in to a pre-movie, three-minute slot at so many theaters? I kept seeing trailers for this more and more, not to mention teasers flaunting themselves all over those gargantuan Regal Cinemas, and the film just keeps growing on me more and more. I really want to see it. It’s mostly the cast that’s persuading me. I know, as you mentioned, it seems like something a senior citizen would more likely enjoy (I find it a bit odd that my grandmother was eager to see The Help and The Descendants, but it seems she hasn’t heard of this), but I love the actors here. I know Maggie Smith has won Academy Awards in the 60s and 70s, but I know her best from the Harry Potter series. I’m interested to see her after that saga has come to a close. As for Judi Dench, I can’t name any specific films I’ve seen with her, but I know if I checked IMDb, I’d have watched at least 35% of her filmography and would be screaming, “She was so good there!” Dev Patel…you know where I stand for him. Slumdog Millionaire is always my response when I am asked what my favorite movie is, and he was so great there. So obviously, he’s a reason I want to see this.

    Great review.

    • Trust me. I was all set to love this. The trailer promised something more than what was delivered. The cast is the best part. Please, if you haven’t seen Judi Dench in Notes on a Scandal, remedy that situation right now. It also stars Cate Blanchett. Both were nominated for Oscars. It’s a favorite of mine.

  3. martin250 Says:

    Great review Mark, This movie looks interesting . i sometimes enjoy movies about the older demographic…examples include Grumpy Old men, About Schmidt, and Wrestling Ernest Hemingway –have you seen this one?.

    • martin250 Says:

      although you didn’t like it enough to grant 3 stars, i took an interest after reading”undeniably pleasant affair”..

      • It had its moments. Never saw Wrestling Ernest Hemingway, but I loved the other two, especially About Schmidt. This film was closer in depth to something like The Bucket List. In other words, it wasn’t very deep, just kind of cute.

  4. Great review. I may give it a chance because I, too, love seeing Judi Dench in anything.

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