The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (Fox Searchlight)
Rated PG-13 for sexual content and language.
Starring Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Dev Patel, Tom Wilkinson, Penelope Wilton, Celia Imrie, Tena Desae, Ronald Pickup, Diana Hardcastle.
Written by Ol Parker, based on the novel by Deborah Moggach.
Directed by John Madden.
Getting old may not be much fun, but that doesn't mean you have to take it lying down. That's the main message of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, the story of a group of British retirees who go to India to spend their golden years.
Judi Dench stars as Evelyn, a newly widowed woman stuck with her dead husband's debt. Bill Nighy plays Douglas, a retired public servant whose difficult wife Jean (Penelope Wilton) refuses to move into a drab retirement community. Tom Wilkinson plays Graham, a high court judge who suddenly decides to retire during his colleague's retirement party. Maggie Smith plays Muriel, a retired (racist) domestic in need of a hip replacement, but doesn't want to be put on the UK's socialized medical program wait list, so she opts to get the operation done immediately through a pilot program in India, despite her distaste for Indian people. Celia Imrie and (the appropriately named) Ronald Pickup play Norman and Madge, a couple of single people looking for a hookup, despite their age.
All the retired Brits have opted to stay at the supposedly luxurious Best Exotic Marigold Hotel operated by the young Sonny (Dev Patel), whose family owns the property. The British group of seniors soon discover that the Marigold is not as luxurious as advertised, yet most of them make the best of the situation.
As the British guests settle in, Sonny pursues the love of his life Sunaina (Tena Desae), despite opposition from his mother who wants him to shut down the dilapidated hotel and enter into an arranged marriage with another woman. Sunaina works at one of those notorious "outsourced" call centers, where Evelyn finds employment.
Graham, who grew up in India and left after a homosexual affair with an Indian man in his youth uses his time to seek out his former lover. Evelyn works at the call center educating the workers on English culture and phone manners. Douglas spends his time exploring the Indian temples and other cultural sites, while his wife Jean refuses to leave the hotel. After her operation, Muriel spends her days accepting the service of an Indian domestic, an "undesirable" she attempts to coach on housekeeping skills. Norman and Madge retreat to the nearest upscale country club, where they both pose as wealthy foreigners trying score a rich tryst.
As the most of the retirees follow their diverse pursuits and discover a new perspective on their golden years while Sonny tries to win the hand of Sunaina while keeping his hotel afloat.
I liked The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel a lot. The all-star team of actors deliver great heart-felt performances under the talented direction of John Madden. The movie may not appeal to everyone and is more suited to a mature audience. Some of the conclusions about cross-culture relationships are perhaps a little trite for reality, but the strong ensemble cast keeps the story's sweet spirit afloat.