The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (TBEMH) is a tale of self-discovery and growth. It follows an elderly group of Brits, as they travel to an advertised hotel in India. While all of them leave England for different reasons, they all eventually banding together and becoming friends. Headed for the grandly named “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”, the group soon realizes that it is less glamorous than advertised. The main characters are: Graham (Tom Wilkinson), Jean (Penelope Wilton), Douglas (Bill Nighy), Muriel (Maggie Smith), Evelyn (Judi Dench), Madge (Ceilia Imrie), Norman (Ronald Pickup), and Sonny (Dev Patel). This super-group of characters all have particular goals for this trip to India, such as Graham seeking his young love or Jean and Douglas attempting to fix their marriage. This is all complicated by the dilapidated, underfunded condition of the Exotic Marigold Hotel, with Sonny trying to keep his family’s hotel from going under.
While the plot is technically original, the characters populating this world are not. Granted, it’s a cute story. It makes you feel all warm and snuggly inside, but it is still something you’ve seen many times. Most of the humor comes from the exaggerated culture clash delivered by the posh travelers, instead of genuinely witty dialogue or events. Additionally, the plot lines for each characters are generic, overused tales. This isn’t to say that it isn’t cute to watch these stories play out, but don’t expect fresh content.
While the characters may have been thin, the acting behind it was not. With such a recognizable cast of stars, you can expect a high level of quality from their performances. I thought that Bill Nighy and Judi Dench particularly stood out from the cast, just due to the subtle believable quality they brought to their characters. Also, I have to say that Dev Patel brought his A-
game for this film. Honestly, his character was the only one with any original concepts attached to it. This originality paired nicely with Patel’s natural acting abilities, creating a shining character within TBEMH.
I may not have been particularly interested in the bland story of TBEMH, but I have to admit, it was beautifully shot. Benjamin Davis (Cinematographer) and John Madden (Director) took advantage of the picturesque beauty in India. Each scene didn’t exist solely to deliver plot, but also to display the exotic setting of the film. There were times during TBEMH that felt more like a tourist advertisement, instead of a film. Not to say this is a bad thing, because it was pleasant to be immersed in such a different way of life. Simply put, TBEMH is a very well shot film. Not only do they show off the surroundings, but they also accentuate the charm that radiates off of each actor.
The pacing of the film is slow and steady, only seeming to rush in the beginning. Once the characters arrive in India, everything seems
to slow down a bit. This relaxed pace is wonderfully matched by the soundtrack. The Indian influence into the music creates a fantastic accompaniment to the easygoing feel of TBEMH. They seem to have perfected the art of creating a relaxing movie, allowing the audience to slip away within the “feel-good” feeling.
I may not have been the biggest fan of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, but I can’t say that it wasn’t a nice movie to sit through. The plot is dreadfully bland, but every other element within the film seems to take up the slack. This would be a nice movie to take your mother and grandmother for Mother’s Day, but it shouldn’t be your first choice for a fun night on the town. While being put off by the mediocrity of the story, I can’t ignore the technical proficiency and joyful feeling that TBEMH inspires. It’s not a summer blockbuster, but it is an enjoyable escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life.
I give The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel 3.5 “Tuk Tuks” out of 5
By Blake Edwards