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|The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
dir John Madden
scr Ol Parker
prd Graham Broadbent, Peter Czernin
with Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton, Tom Wilkinson, Ronald Pickup, Celia Imrie, Dev Patel, Tena Desae, Lillete Dubey, Liza Tarbuck, Israr Azam
release UK 24.Feb.12
12/UK Fox 1h58
Golden years: Dench, Wilkinson and Nighy
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
Colourful and engaging, this lively comedy-drama gives a handful of mature actors terrific roles to play within a bustling international setting. It feels a bit cute and tame, but it's still entertaining.
Seven retirees meet at the airport as they move to Rajasthan to retire in a newly restored hotel. Evelyn (Dench) is financially strapped due to her late husband's debts. Muriel (Smith) is getting a faster, cheaper hip replacement. Douglas and Jean (Nighy and Wilton) can't afford to retire in Britain. Graham (Wilkinson) has unfinished business in India. And Norman and Madge (Pickup and Imrie) are both single and looking for love. But manager Sonny (Patel) has slightly exaggerated the hotel's facilities.
Based on Deborah Moggach's novel These Foolish Things, this is one of those stories in which each character takes a journey that hinges on their willingness to embrace what life throws at them. Some of these people find it impossible to live in this chaotic city, while others embrace the energy. It's fairly clear that by the end everyone will be where they should be, so there's virtually no tension at all. We just sit back and let it wash over us.
Shot completely on location, the settings bristle with local culture, although everything feels stage-managed to avoid something unexpected, which kind of ruins the illusion. Fortunately, the superior cast bring honesty to each scene, and there isn't a weak link among them. Dench and Smith are the highlights, of course, and it's refreshing to see them in non-period roles playing women their actual ages rather than dowagers or maids.
Meanwhile, Nighy brings his usual sprightly physicality to scenes opposite the terrific Wilton. Wilkinson gets to carry the film's emotional kick, while Pickup and Imrie get the more comical scenes. Even Patel manages to hold his own, with a side-plot involving his mother (Dubey) taking exception to his too-modern girlfriend (Desae).
In the end, there is plenty to enjoy, including some expertly played comical and romantic sequences and a generally relaxed atmosphere that lets us know we don't have to worry that anything too nasty will happen (although there is one dark surprise). And in this sense the film's wispy-thin message isn't too bothersome.
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© 2012 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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