‘Everything will be alright in the end, and if it’s not alright, it’s not yet the end.’ This is the recurring mantra of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and I can now finally say, after seeing it, that this wonderfully heartfelt, life affirming film lives up to its optimistic view. I’m probably biased because I’m fascinated by films that have anything to do with India. I was already sold on this film when I first saw the trailer and have been eagerly anticipating its release.
This film, like India itself, has a way of seducing you into loving it. The mostly older crowd that I saw it with laughed throughout and even clapped at the end, which rarely happens in a cinema, and it’s already a huge hit in the UK among greying audiences.
A group of disparate English retirees, due to varying circumstances, are lured into traveling to India by an enchanting vision of a luxury Jaipur retirement hotel as seen on the internet. When they arrive they find it’s not quite what they expected, to say the least, as the hotel has yet to be renovated. While overcoming major culture shock, some manage to cope better than others with their unusually dire surroundings.
Directed by the acclaimed British filmmaker John Madden, who is behind such films as Shakespeare in Love (1998) and Captain Corelli’s Mandolin (2001), the first rate cast is played by some of British cinemas most renowned and acclaimed thespians including Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson, and Bill Nighy. It’s the fabulous performances by these wonderful actors, including Dev Patel who was recently seen in Slumdog Millionaire (2008) that makes this film really stand out.
Upon arrival we see the sheer panic of people coming from a quiet orderly English life style thrown into the chaos of India’s crowded, and completely unregulated free-for-all streets. Some have come for love, some for sex, and others just can’t wait to leave. Through the excellent cast we get a conservative look at India as they deal with some controversial issues. There is lots of humor throughout with regards to the problems of old age but the personal stories are quite poignant and the genuine performances give an emotional impact that makes the movie very relatable regardless of age.
Based on the novel These Foolish Things (2004) by Deborah Moggach, Marigold Hotel is beautifully filmed by Ben Davis, who was the cinematographer on such recent films as Kick-Ass (2010) and Wrath of the Titans (2012). Visually we get to see plenty of Jaipur India’s bustling street life, which reminded me of other films worth seeing if you’re drawn to the visceral milieu of India’s cities like The Pool (2007) in Goa, Amal in New Delhi (2008), and Slumdog Millionaire in Mumbai (2008).
People in their twilight years are frequently undervalued by our society and this film deals with this issue head on. Some of these seniors have been marginalized, or pushed aside by an indifferent society that values youth over experience and loyalty, but as this movie shows, seniors, more than anyone, want to be useful and feel that they are valued for their experience and years of contribution. When an institution they have loyally served for most of their lives discards them, they feel lost and betrayed. In many eastern countries, however, seniors are revered and looked up to by society as teachers and valuable contributors to the well-being of society, passing on traditional knowledge to the next generation, something that we have lost here in the west.
Our intrepid seniors gradually adjust and discover a whole new and rewarding way of life in India while learning that they still have much to offer to the very appreciative local citizens as their romantic vision of India wins out in the end.