Welcome to the best exotic marigold hotel. From John Madden (director of Shakespeare in Love) appears this ray of cinematic sunshine, a heart-warming cultural journey featuring British acting royalty in their prime. An eclectic group of retirees including a lovable racist and an aged Lothario who, through various financial difficulties, are forced relocate from the grey monotony of the British senior citizen lifestyle to the ‘luxury retirement home’ in Jaipur, India.
The bedraggled group arrive after a cancelled flight and an over packed bus via tuk tuk. They are greeted by a less than over whelming hotel without so much as working phones, but judging by the brochure, an obvious over reliance on photo editing. The over-enthusiastic manager Sonny (Dev Patel), desperate to restore the hotel to its former glory proceeds to eagerly offer his services to both the elderly travellers and the audience alike as he lovingly bustles his way through the triumphs and tribulations of this vibrant film. A beautiful love interest (Tena Desae) and suitable villain in Sonny’s mother (Lillete Dubey) along with the threatened closure of the hotel would make for a dull 120 minutes but it is the intertwining stories including an imitation Princess Margaret, a pensioners first job and the rekindling of an illicit affair which provide passable tales of intrigue to the otherwise rather foreseeable script.
An arguably predictable script is forgotten when it is flawlessly delivered by an all-star cast. Judi Dench, enthralling as always, portrays the recently widowed and somewhat helpless Evelyn who, after discovering the extent of her late husband’s debts, is forced to relocate. Her effortlessly elegant performance sets a tone for the film, narrating the cultural assault so eloquently through her online blog. Bill Nighy is effortlessly cool as always but stems away from his normally slap stick ‘bad Grandad’ roll and portrays Douglas: a soul wearied by the loyalty and etiquette of forty years in a dying marriage. Opposite Penelope Wilton ( Nighy’s on-set, tight lipped wife Jean) he proceeds to deliver an altogether resounding performance and proves that it is never too late to start a fresh. However, it is Maggie Smith who steals the show as the unconventionally endearing xenophobic Muriel, begrudgingly relocating to India for a hip operation. Her indignant facial expressions and Hobnob addiction inject the humorous lifts that make this film so undeniably pleasing.
As the sun sets over the Marigold hotel, the audience is left contemplating old age and Sonny’s ever optimistic view on life: “Everything will be alright in the end, and if it is not alright then it is not yet the end.”
A beautifully heart-warming film with immaculate performances, filled to the brim with hope and promise for the all-important golden years.
Platform rating: 7/10