The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – Review
Review by Rob Carnevale
A SOLID cast does not always make a great movie as John Madden’s The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel often painfully proves.
Based on Deborah Moggach’s novel These Foolish Things, the movie is another attempt to provide elderly viewers with an alternative to the plethora of superhero movies and/or vampire-themed romances currently dominating the multi-plexes.
But Ol Parker’s script is so awash with horribly clichéd characters and predictable plotting that any promise offered by such a starry cast – Dame Judi Dench, Dame Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy to name but four – is quickly lost amid the stereotypes.
Still, the cast look as though they’re having fun amid the exotic Indian locations.
The plot follows the fortunes of a group of disenchanted elderly folk who, sick with what their lives have become, decide to up sticks and head to India for what promises to be a happier, more exciting existence at the ‘best exotic marigold hotel’ of the film’s title.
What they get upon arrival, however, is something that fails to live up to its brochure description despite the best efforts of its over-enthusiastic and ever-hopeful manager (Dev Patel).
The elderly characters in question include Tom Wilkinson’s judge, who is determined to revisit a long-lost friend from his past; estranged married couple Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilton, who are attempting to get their relationship back on-track; hip op patient Maggie Smith, who has no tolerance for foreign cultures; adventure-seeking widower Judi Dench, who is open to new possibilities, and Ronald Pickup’s wily old codger who is looking to re-ignite his mojo.
There is the possibility of fun to be found in these disparate characters but Parker’s screenplay is so contrived that most of the storylines grate in spite of the hard work put in by the performers.
Wilton’s bitter, constantly sniping wife, for instance, is so horridly one dimensional that it’s a wonder Nighy’s put-upon husband hasn’t already left her. But even though he’s clearly destined to end up with another member of the elderly party, Madden’s direction drags the inevitable out for so long, his ‘awakening’ simply becomes annoying.
Similarly, the presence of Dame Maggie Smith seems to have been seized upon as an opportunity to provide her with a similarly acid-tongued character to her Downton Abbey persona. But this backfires as her character’s journey in this film seems unlikely in the first place (given her opinions) and unconvincing when it does happen.
Patel attempts to play things for maximum comic effect but could have benefited from a few more dramatic scenes and a little less stereotyping, while Pickup is similarly ill-served as the ‘comedy’ elderly side-kick out for sex (and nothing more it would seem).
Even Wilkinson, who offers arguably the most interesting of all the characters, is short-changed eventually… his story coming to an unsatisfactory end.
Madden’s direction is also cumbersome, lazily drifting towards its various inevitabilities without really doing anything to surprise or keep things fresh. He makes good use of the Indian locations but, sadly, this isn’t enough.
In short, there’s very little that’s exotic or even appealing about this particular hotel experience, which makes checking in ill-advised.
Running time: 2hrs 4mins
UK Release Date: February 24, 2012