The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (Fox Searchlight Pictures) is worth seeing for the cast alone. It stars Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Maggie Smith, Dev Patel and Bill Nighy who are all in top form. India itself is a strong character with scenery richly displayed by the film’s high production value.
The story is sweet, albeit swirling with clichés and predictability. It heartwarmingly covers enough topics to appeal to all ages. For young romantics, there’s forbidden love. For elderly audiences, grief and loss. The plot includes financial hardships, starting over, and the high price paid for living as a closeted homosexual.
Based on the book These Foolish Things by Deborah Moggach, Marigold Hotel centers around a group of British retirees sucked in by a Photoshopped brochure of the “newly restored” Marigold Hotel. Upon arrival the guests are all aghast due to the dilapitated state of the hotel. As within any human microcosm, some handle it with grace, while others with everything but.
Maggie Smith is superb as Muriel, a bitter bigoted crankpot. Judy Dench sparkles as Evelyn, a widowed housewife brimming with vulnerability. Graham, a high court judge reluctant to retire, is portrayed by Tom Wilkinson. Bill Nighy is infuriating as the hen-pecked Douglas married to miserable verbally-abusive Jean played by Penelope Wilton. Dev Patel does a charmingly great job as Sonny Kapoor, the lovelorn hotel manager torn between his mother’s approval and the object of his affections, Sunaina, played by the beautiful Tena Desae.
The best line comes from Sonny, “In India we have a saying, ‘Everything will be alright in the end. So, if it is not alright, it is not yet the end.’”
Judging Marigold Hotel by its storyline and screenplay it deserves only 2 stars but based on its cast, entertainment value and feel-good qualities it earns 4 stars.
Rated PG-13. 122 min. Opened May 4 at Angelika Film Center, 18 West Houston Street and AMC Loews Lincoln Square 13, 1998 Broadway.
Article written for the Examiner.