By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)

Aging affects every person in this world, and some people handle it better than others.  My parents, now that they’ve reached their late seventies (mother) and early eighties (father), struggle to cling on to their youthfulness which has blessed them up until recent years.  As people approach their twilight, they often reflect upon how they spent their lives, considering regretful decisions or goals which they had once hoped to attain, as well as unresolved problems which continue to trouble them.  Like it or not, most of us reach those latter years of life, but can differ in how we deal with this inevitability.  Director John Madden’s (Shakespeare in Love, The Debt) latest film focuses on a group of British retirees who move to India to spend their “golden years”, but must also come to terms with some personal issues and baggage.  

Evelyn Greenslade (Judi Dench) needs a fresh start in her life. She has been in a serious funk since she lost her husband who was also her source of purpose in her life.  Graham Dashwood (Tom Wilkinson) has retired after a long and successful legal career, but has yet to find true happiness in his life.  He carries with him a heavy burden from his past for which he needs closure.  Douglas and Jean Ainslie (Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton) wish to settle down for an official retirement, but have vastly different ideas on how to do this.  In fact they have grown apart in many ways through the years, but struggle to maintain their marriage despite this.  Madge Hardcastle (Celia Imrie) and Norman Cousins (Ronald Pickup) may have reached their golden years, but nevertheless are single and still willing to mingle.  Last but not least, Muriel Donnelly badly needs hip surgery and can only have it done inexpensively in India.  

Muriel, as well as the others, travels to India, lured by the promise of the exotic and luxurious in a historic hotel for the retired.  The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel may have quite a history behind it, but has lacked serious maintenance for some time and remains the inherited property of the bright eyed and optimistic dreamer Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel).  Sonny envisions restoring the hotel to the glory of its earlier years to provide a home for senior citizens, but struggles to do this without the support and help from his disapproving mother and brothers.  While Kapoor dreams of this blissful career and future for himself and his girlfriend Sunaina (Tena Desae), the residents of the Marigold have time to face their personal troubles and discover that as long as they are alive, it is never too late to achieve happiness. 

Because of the talented cast assembled for this movie, I found it charming and enjoyable, despite the limitations of the script and the lack of development with certain characters.  The screenplay by Ol Parker, based on the novel These Foolish Things by Deborah Moggach, doesn’t really offer anything strikingly new in terms of story, thematic material, or humor, but does present a highly lovable story with likable characters.  The film fails to develop the Madge and Norman characters fully which keeps their journeys from going somewhere interesting.  A certain amount of predictability also weakens the climax of the movie.  The entire experience feels lovely, quaint, and sweet, but seems to lack excitement and passion when it comes to the stories of the retirees. 

 The real passion of the film comes from the Sonny Kapoor character, portrayed with much zeal and heart by Dev Patel.  His character’s story provides the zest and excitement that the film needs.  Patel shines in another phenomenal performance.  Dench, Wilkinson, Nighy,Wilton, Smith, Imrie, and Pickup provide the movie with solid acting, but certainly have limited material with which to work.  Without a doubt, these enormously talented actors do not falter in what they bring to these characters.  The characters falter them somewhat. 

 Because this film will probably get limited attention in theaters, I recommend that people interested in this movie should catch it while available.  I wouldn’t suggest spending top dollar to watch it, but The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel would make for a lovely afternoon at the theater with family members.  I must also highly recommend it for retirees who will definitely relate to some of the issues and problems faced by these characters

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