It is often said that no-one comes away from India unchanged. I have never been to India so I can’t tell you whether this is the case for me, but I did see The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and I came away from that a changed and inspired person. I know it’s not usually the case to start a review with an opinion but I can’t help it. I want to shout from the rooftops how wonderful this film is! I love this film more than I can say. I know it’s too early in the year to say this, but I am going to anyway, this could well be my film of 2012!
What makes this film so special? The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel has you connecting and caring about its characters from word go. There’s a sadness about this film but it is not tragic – it is tender, charming, witty, uplifting, inspiring, and even empowering. It has a stellar cast, in an amazing country, and tells a wonderful, moving, beautiful story.
Sonny (Dev Patel) has “a dream to create a home for the elderly so wonderful that they simply refuse to die.” The problem is that, it is in fact still only a dream. The pictures he has used to sell his Indian hotel have worked to entice six British retirees to his hotel but what will happen when they realise this is far from the piece of paradise they were hoping for?
All the characters have escaped to India for different reasons. Evelyn (Judi Dench), has recently lost her husband, who has left her in a mountain of debt; Muriel (Maggie Smith),a racist, is only going to India to get a cheap hip replacement; Graham (Tom Wilkinson), a recently retired High Court Judge is on a mission to wrong a right; extreme opposites, Douglas (Bill Nighy) and wife Jean (Penelope Wilton) have lost their money in their daughter’s business scheme, Norman (Ronald Pickup) wants to find love; and Madge (Celia Imrie) doesn’t want to be her family’s live in babysitter anymore.
The 6 characters are all very different and are on different journeys but they have one thing in common, they want to escape their current lives in order to find something new, while also dealing with getting older. One of the characters summed it up beautifully, “I don’t want to get older. I don’t want to be condescended to. I don’t want to be marginalised … I just want to feel young again, to feel needed.”
It could have been easy to make these characters mere caricatures but they are not. There is such depth about them, brought to life by the cream of British cinema. The performances by the cast are subtle, beautiful, and moving.
Credit has to be given to Dev Patel as it must have been very daunting going onto set with some of Britain’s finest actors. If he was overwhelmed by this prospect, he was not showing it. He held his own amongst them and was very endearing as the young, optimistic, dream filled Sonny. You can’t help but like him and want him to succeed.
India is another character you fall in love with. It is the one that awakens the spirit of all who visit. Graham sums up beautifully what makes India so special “Light, colour, smiles. The way people see life as a privillidge and not a right. And Evelyn’s take is, “Initially you are overwhelmed but gradually you’ll realise it’s like a wave. Resist and you’ll be bowled over. Swim with it and you’ll end up on the other side. This is a new world. The challenge is to cope with it. Not just cope – but thrive!”
Films can elicit a number of emotions – escapism, anger, love, passion – but it is the rarest of films that inspire you to live your life and dare to try new things. This is what The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel does. You will laugh, you will cry, and you will be inspired.
I am going to end with some pearl of wisdoms from The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. “Everything will be alright in the end, and if it’s not alright, then it is not yet the end!” and don’t forget to dream and dream big because, “Nothing happens unless you dream first”!