The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011)
A Life Changing Movie
There is no past that we can bring back by longing for it. Only a present that builds and creates itself as the past withdraws - Evelyn
After her husband passed away Evelyn Greenslade (Judi Dench) found out she would have to sell her home to pay off his debts. Graham (Tom Wilkinson) who having had a good career as a judge decides enough is enough and quits his job whilst Douglas (Bill Nighy) and Jean Ainslie (Penelope Wilton) are dealing with the fact that having invested their retirement fund in their daughter's internet business they have no money to retire on. Muriel (Maggie Smith) who is British working class finds herself needing hip replacement surgery but also facing a long wait to have it done in the UK. Then there are Norman (Ronald Pickup) and Madge (Celia Imrie) both getting on in years and looking for, well for Norman it is love whilst Madge is after a rich husband. Each of these people end up arriving in India to stay at the Exotic Marigold Hotel, a run down building managed by the enthusiastic Sonny (Dev Patel) who's life is complicated thanks to a domineering mother and a girlfriend who he won't take to meet his mum. But as all these people settle into the hotel they all find their stay a life changing experience.
It's not often these days that I will sit down to watch a movie and the minute it is over want to watch it immediately again, in fact I can't remember the last time it happened. But that is what happened when I watched "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" a beautiful movie which has a bit of everything from humour to drama, romance to death, separation and sexual revelations but more importantly bucket loads of charm. Thanks to the clever casting of Judi Dench who provides the occasional narration via a blog and who looks radiant we are enchanted by this journey into India and the various awakenings which we encounter via the characters.
The thing is that "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" is an incredibly simple movie with these various people from Britain coming to stay in this dilapidated hotel and experience some sort of life changing events. I won't go into each and every one of them but Graham having been raised in India has returned to find the love of his life who he had to leave when it caused problems all those years ago whilst Muriel who is there for a hip operation and is very anti anything foreign begins to warm to the people and culture. These stories give us that mix so one minute we will be laughing then the next something dramatic will touch us whilst that occasional moment of narration will contain a truly powerful word of wisdom. Plus of course there are Sonny's endeavours to juggle his attempts to renovate the hotel and his love life plus his pushy mum.
The thing is that some how director John Madden has managed to bring this movie to life in such a free flowing manner that as we skip between characters who's stories frequently overlap with each other via various connections that you become drawn in to each and everyone's little story and warm to them. Much of that is down to the exceptional casting with so many great performances be it Judi Dench delivering beauty, warmth and wisdom as Evelyn or Bill Nighy delivering shall we say a typical Bill Nighy awkward performance which just makes you laugh. And then there is Maggie Smith as a working class British woman who is prejudiced but not nasty with it as it is more a prejudice born out of ignorance and fear but it is a very real and amusing character especially when she says things such as "If I can't pronounce it I don't want to eat it".
In fact one of the best things about "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" is that it is full of funny lines but also many insightful lines which make you think be it Evelyn's philosophy on life or Graham's insight into Indian's seeing life as a privilege not a right. It certainly does a good job of making you think whilst also making you laugh. And to be honest at the same time immersing you in the hustle and bustle of the street culture with the noisy roads whilst also throwing us into the amusing word of the Indian call centre. It is a miracle that all these things combine in such way that none of them fail.
What this all boils down to is that "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" is an extraordinary movie with so much going on but getting every single bit of it right. Some might call it sentimental and manipulative but so what when it does it right and makes you not only feel good whilst watching it but also making you think about your life at the same time.
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