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Movies Review

'The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel' review

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Released on Friday, Feb 24 2012

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

You're never too old to change is the message and feeling behind John Madden's new movie The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. A versatile director whose work ranges from period films (Mrs Brown, Shakespeare in Love) to thrillers (Killshot, The Debt), here he confronts the advancing of years by sending a group of 60-somethings to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

The resort of the title is an establishment for retirees in India managed by Dev Patel's chipper Sonny. He is "outsourcing old age", offering a getaway more glamours than the grey British skies to those in their twilight years. Unfortunately, the hotel has fallen into disrepair and the new guests feel like they've been sold a lie. As time passes, though, Sonny's charm and the vibrant Indian locale win over the residents.

Judi Dench's recently-widowed Evelyn is the audience's eyes and ears, narrating the story as she clears away her deceased husband's debts and starts afresh at the Marigold. She's joined by Maggie Smith's Muriel, in India for a cost-saving hip replacement; couple-under-strain Douglas (Bill Nighy) and Jean (Penelope Wilton); Graham (Tom Wilkinson), a man looking to revisit his past; and singletons looking for love Norman (Ronald Pickup) and Madge (Celia Imrie).

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Like the dilapidated hotel of its title, this is a film that slowly grows on you. It's sweet, charming, emotionally engaging and has outstanding performances from its seasoned cast. Wilkinson's story is the most touching of the lot. His Graham is a gay man ("In theory these days rather than practise," he notes) whose relationship with his Indian friend some 40 years earlier brought shame on the latter's family. Graham is weighed down with guilt and in search of forgiveness - his journey helps the others bring their lives into clearer focus.

Muriel's transformation from hard-nosed, wheelchair-bound xenophobe to smiling old lady is the most drastic, and the one that doesn't quite ring true. Yet Smith's delicate handling of Muriel, particularly in a scene where she explains how her former employers suddenly found no use for her, is enough to lend her character sufficient believability.

At the heart of it all is Dench - so often a figure of authority, here she's lost in the fast-paced life of a foreign land and must find a job to make ends meet. A growing friendship with Nighy's kind Douglas, so often on the receiving end of his wife's barbs, gives a flicker of hope for her future.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel may skip along as a fairly light travelogue, but it crucially has something to say about ageing and how we value the elderly. The film is inhabited by characters who all have something to give, yet only when they move into a new culture do they find a place where they're respected and offered the chance to contribute.

This is a moving film that's a brilliant showcase for a superb cast. Take your granny to this one but be warned, there may be a few tears shed!


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