The trailer had made me cry over a month ago so when it was suggested that a trip to the cinema would be a good reason to get out the house I jumped at the prospect and we booked the tickets. It is hard to describe what made me go for it: maybe it host of amazing actors within the cast; maybe it was the colour and sun that is so attractive to the characters themselves; maybe it was the originality of having a heartwarming comedy based on the lives of the older generations – a group that tends to be mocked in our dreary raining culture in Britain. I did have one worry though: that the production crew would have put every smile-worthy line into the trailer and leave us with dullsville in the time between each one. I was gratefully proved wrong and hopefully one day my scepticism will subside, although I may need more of this kind of film before that happens.
So the characters.. for the first time in giving a critique I want to introduce you to them as the main reason I enjoyed this film so much. I will try to keep it short and not give too much away.
Muriel – Maggie Smith
Our first impression is of a rather grumpy, and racist, old lady who needs a hip replacement. It did puzzle me for a minute why someone who considered a black man dirty would go to India, but all is explained when her hip replacement is offered on a shorter timetable if she goes to India for it. If only the NHS would send me to Asia for adventures! She is gradually revealed to be hurt, lonely, and scared, which I think a lot of old people are. Her transformation is quietly beautiful and made me love Maggie all the more.
Norman – Ronald Pickup
This sex-obsessed old man is hilarious. Beginning in a speed-dating group wanting to meet someone between 29-39 years, he reveals that his only desire is to feel young. When his honesty allows him to open up to someone about his loneliness he reaches the top of the mountain (any innuendo would fit here) and finds happiness. He just had to travel half way round the world to get it – this relates to those of any age.
Evelyn – Judi Dench
Evelyn’s story starts early as her home is being sold after the discovery of her late husband’s debts. She comes to India as an (rather exciting) alternative to living with her son. She manages to get a job teaching British culture and starts to make India her home. She begins to take control of her life for the first time in 40 years and her example is amazing. Like Kipling, her words are wise and if her blog actually existed I’d be its biggest fan.
Graham – Tom Wilkinson
Leaving his job as a High Court Judge he journeys back to a place he grew up to search for an old friend. He is possibly the most mysterious character of the film but is the guide of his newly ex-pat group and is the one trying to bring even the most introverted round to the beauty of India.
Jean – Penelope Wilton
Having expected a prince’s accommodation, Jean was sadly surprised by the reality of the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. She spends her days lonely, reading books and yearning after the life she may have had with the money that never came. There are times when she is cruel, but in part it is understandable. Nothing is how she expected it and not knowing how to cope, she struggles. At least she tried, which is more than many people do.
Douglas – Bill Nighy
Husband of Jean, he could not be anymore different to his wife. Dealing with money by moving to India was far better than the beige retirement bungalow and he grabs it with both hands. Fixing taps, phones and whatever else he can, he is a friendly smiling face loving the friendly, smiling faces shining back at him from children on the Indian streets. Trying to haggle may fail but nothing seems to defeat his spirit.
Madge – Celia Imrie
A thorough-bred woman looking for a husband: this entire situation is hilarious at times and sweet at others. Not willing to end her days as a constant babysitter to her two grandchildren (who she loves), she sets off to find a rich husband who will treat her well. She is not a gold-digger, she too is lonely. She acts as a wingman, so to speak, for Norman, as well as enjoying a few night-time encounters – although not something you, or she, expected.
Trying to run his late father’s dream, the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, he is quite simply crazy. The hotel is crumbling and he is trying to keep both his mother and his girlfriend happy, as well as running around after his newly acquired guests. He has a dream, his dream is big and his motto echoes it. Sonny believes in the hotel’s success but has no way of running it without money, which he can’t convince anyone to get him either. Who hasn’t had a seemingly impossible dream?
It was not just these characters which make you love this film. The culture, the colour, the sounds of India just warm the heart. After watching just half and hour of Judi Dench wandering around in the sun you feel like you could be sitting in a spice market in mid-summer happily. Now don’t get me wrong, they don’t romanticise India too much, there are still the classic jokes about the after-effects of curries, there is still the poverty, the noise, the stigmas about social groups, but all of this doesn’t destroy the picture, it deepens.
A hindi funeral showing a grieving man walking into the water to scatter the ashes could remind anyone of their own loved ones’ funerals. The fact that a funeral happens between a group of the retired and old is not avoided, it is embraced because it contrasts so much with the life in the rest of the film, it just becomes more beautiful.
When I left the cinema after this viewing it didn’t feel like I’d been there for hours, it felt like I had been resting with a great conversation between friends. It is not a film that makes you want to go there, it makes you want to go everywhere. It encourages you to live life and have adventures, however scary they might be.
There is so much more I could say about this film but I don’t want to spoil it. You need to watch this film. Something I read before I saw the film suggested I would enjoy it if I had enjoyed Calendar Girls and Slumdog Millionaire. This is true but I felt that this would imply a mixture of the two. It isn’t at all a mixture, it is a fresh look at life, and coming to death. It reminds you of what’s important, and encourages you to enjoy it. So go enjoy it, and I’d recommend this is part of your day sometime soon.
“Everything will be alright in the end, and if it’s not, then it’s not the end.”
- Staff Reviews: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel by Martin Barker, Screen Lounge Assistant (phoenixsquare.wordpress.com)
- The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (charlotteweston.wordpress.com)