Susan Granger’s review of “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” (Fox Searchlight Pictures)
Culture shock lies in store for seven, cash-strapped senior Brits who board a plane from London to Jaipur, ready to embark on the third act of their lives.
There’s recently widowed Evelyn Greenslade (Judi Dench), retired High-Court judge Graham Dashwood (Tom Wilkinson), lonely Madge Hardcastle (Celia Imrie), randy Norman Cousins (Ronald Pickup), quarrelsome Douglas and Jean Ainslie (Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton), and former housekeeper Muriel Donnelly (Maggie Smith) who, while awaiting a low-cost hip replacement, adamantly refuses to eat anything she doesn’t know how to pronounce.
Their destination in India is the once stately but now dilapidated hotel which is managed as a retirement residence “for the elderly and beautiful” by relentlessly optimistic, if hopelessly inexperienced Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel from “Slumdog Millionaire”). Enthusiastic Sonny’s sincere earnestness tries to compensate for the lack of doors, functional telephones and plumbing as he pursues the ‘forbidden’ love of his life, Sunaina (Indian actress Tena Desai), a call center worker.
Adapted from the 2004 novel “These Foolish Things” by Deborah Moggach, this bittersweet, fish-out-of-water comedic drama, poignantly scripted by Ol Parker and compassionately directed by John Madden (“Shakespeare in Love,” “The Debt”), is a bit reminiscent of Robert Altman’s interweaving ensembles, along with “Enchanted April” and “Cocoon,” in the way the lives of these expectant travelers are radically changed as they encounter challenges in this foreign culture and accommodate to its customs. On a deeper level, there’s a subtle, heartfelt commentary on ‘outsourcing’ the elderly, along with customer service call centers, in countries where their limited funds will go further.
The accomplished cast of seasoned thespians makes the most out of every witty scene, along with a character unto itself: the distinctively architected hotel, a former chieftain’s palace, located several hundred miles southwest of Udaipur. Cinematographer Ben Davis artfully captures the inherent cacophony and incessant chaos of careening tuk-tuks in the vividly colorful street scenes.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” is an adventurous 8. Anglophiles should check in and check it out.