Featuring a stalwart cast of British actors in their senior years, including Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson and Bill Nighy, John Madden’s The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011) is an initially sluggish, yet perfectly pleasant comedy drama about a group of elderly expats retiring in a dilapidated Indian hotel.
A group of men and women in their twilight years move to the seemingly glamorous Best Exotic Marigold Hotel in Jaipur, only to discover that it is actually a ramshackle ruin run by the useless, yet deeply passionate Sonny (played by Dev Patel, of Slumdog Millionaire fame). Once established, their lives begin to alter in surprising ways as they adapt to the radically different cultural lifestyle modern Jaipur offers.
Directed by Madden (responsible for recent thriller The Debt), The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel doesn’t get off to the best of starts. The convoluted manner by which characters from all walks of life end up moving to India is poorly thought out, their journey out perhaps most reminiscent of Carry On Abroad (1972). The humour is only sporadically successful, with the film much more successful in moments of emotive drama.
Reprieved somewhat by its final act, this heart-warming tale pushes most of the right buttons but ultimately fails to convince. Despite strong performances from Nighy, Wilkinson and Dench, who provide the most intriguing aspects of the narrative, and with Maggie Smith providing a strong performance as the racist Muriel, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’s greatest flaw is that it suffers from far too many plot strands.
Had Madden been braver to divert from the original novel of the same name by Deborah Moggach, the film could have been much stronger, but ultimately his latest effort is saved from obscurity by a watchable cast (with notable mentions to Penelope Wilton, Ronald Pickup and Celia Imrie) and some truly evocative cinematography.