By Laurie Coker

Rating: B

Recently I took on a great deal of responsibility for my parents, now only my father, and I well understand frustrations from his point of view as well as that of an adult child trying to cope with an aging father, who is recovering from the loss of his spouse, his home and his dog. With that spinning around in my mind, constantly, I went with my older sister to see The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and glad I am that I did. It is a moving, funny, sweet look at aging, hope, loss and so very much more.

An eclectic group of British retirees choose to spend their last years in India, lured by the promise of a luxurious life at the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel run by Sunny (Dev Patel), a young man with vision and a once glorious palatial hotel, now on the brink of bankruptcy and deterioration. Making his life more complicated is his overbearing, traditional mother and the woman he loves, whom his mother disapproves. Still, Sunny has hope and an overabundance of enthusiasm, making the Marigold, while far from “best” or “exotic,” a place where lives are changed.

Bringing us to his guests -while the hotel offers far less than they expected, recently widowed Evelyn Greensdale (the amazing Dame Judi Dench), Judge Graham Dashwood (Tom Wilkinson), husband and wife Douglas (Bill Nighy) and Jean (Penelope Wilton), wannabe ladies man, Norman Cousins (Ronald Pickup), grumpy racist Muriel (an irrepressible Maggie Smith) and gold-digging Madge Hardcastle (Celia Imrie) all decide to give the old place a go, some more eager than others. This A list of veteran actors make any fault in script or telling mean little.

For me Dench can do no wrong, and filmmakers have gathered a cast of many of my favorite British actors. Dench’s Evelyn offers the films central character, but each person brings a story and proof that life does not have to end after retirement.  I adore Bill Nighy and his Douglas is endearing and well, very much typical of the actors other roles. Still, I loved him in this and I felt the same about Wilkinson, whose character provides an unexpected storyline. Another delight comes in Maggie Smith – while her character is hardly likable (in fact she is blatantly racist), especially at first, Smith shines! Patel, best known from Slum Dog Millionaire, brings a necessary youthful exuberance to the film and his subplot give us a chance to meet another beautiful Indian actress (Tena Desai). Their subplot is perhaps the most predictable of the lot, but still enjoyable nonetheless.

It truly has a superb cast and while their stories are a bit predictable and stereotyping, the characters are vivid, colorful and delightful to meet. Director John Madden takes his audience on a journey through India and the hearts of his characters. Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is based on a novel by Deborah Moggach (entitled These Foolish Things) and it does everything we expect, but does so with an exceptional cast, making it difficult to argue it’s all too simplistic, tied neatly in a ribbon ending and the all too straightforward storyline that takes us there.  

Best Exotic Marigold Hotel rated PG-13 pleases on enough levels to earn a B from me. Its actors each deserve far higher, but I am critiquing the film as a whole. I think this films offers a wonderful day-out-with-mom option this Mother’s Day. I know my mother would have enjoyed it.


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