Places to Retire: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the Elderly & Beautiful

From the moment I saw Maggie Smith, sitting in a crowded Indian bus surrounded by men, women and children, refusing food with the dismissive line “No thank you! If I can’t pronounce it, I don’t want to eat it” I knew I would be first in line to see this film.

A sea of grey met us as we entered the theatre – and it wasn’t the curtains. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a movie this full of older adults! Swallowing our pride, we took our seats along with the other elderly, just glad we still had sprite in our steps and hoping we would look like the “young couple in the audience”.

We quickly forgot grey and age as we journeyed across the ocean, landing in India. From the drab of the United Kingdom to the sunshine and color of Jaipur, this film was pure delight from the opening scenes. Predictable? Maybe. Award winning? Who knows? But full of life and promise? Five Stars and more.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel begins in England where three men and four women, all retirement age, find themselves in less than satisfactory circumstances. Though their life situations are vastly different, ranging from a retired high court judge (Tom Wilkinson) to a housekeeper who has been “let go” (Maggie Smith), they are all in the same place of being lured to Jaipur through glossy advertising, a promise of luxury and a desire that their money would go farther. The goal of their journey? To enjoy a blissful and long-term (if not permanent) stay at the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (for the Elderly and Beautiful)

As soon as they arrive it is clear that there is a massive disconnect between what was advertised and what currently exists. The advertisement is the dream of their enthusiastic host, Sonny (played by Dev Patel) and the reality is dust-covered bedrooms, cracking walls and rooms with no doors. In this context we follow their lives as they are transplanted into Indian soil.

The cast brings some of the best British actors together as they negotiate life in India midst the chaos, confusion and colors of a world far removed from their native England.

It was poignant and sometimes humorous watching Muriel (Maggie Smith) transform from an uptight, non-negotiating racist, to someone who begins to love both the people and the place, ultimately devoting herself to the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. I also felt a sadness and not a little frustration for Jean (Penelope Wilton of Downton Abbey) and Douglas (Bill Nighy), the one married couple in the group, as Douglas embraced all that Jaipur and India had to offer while Jean remained stuck, unable and unwilling to adapt and see beyond her myopic British molded vision.

Although the film is accused of being predictable, I was so caught up with the brilliance of the cast and the beauty of the place that it didn’t matter. Over and over I said both silently and audibly “That’s where I want to be! That’s where I want to retire”.

The delight for me was personal. Scenes of multicolored trucks and buses, crowds in the streets, beautiful shalwar, chemise and saris, motorized rickshaws and crowded bazaars all took me back to my childhood in Pakistan, where the streets of Karachi, Lahore and Rawalpindi look similar.

For those who have spent time in the subcontinent, be prepared to be less than satisfied with your current circumstances when you leave the theatre, but also be ready to laugh, smile and be thoroughly enchanted by the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the Elderly and the Beautiful.

As for us? We left the movie knowing with certainty that, should the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel be real, this was the place we wanted to retire.

Memorable Quotes: 

Sonny Kapoor: “I have a dream Mummy. To create a home for the elderly, so wonderful that they will simply refuse to die.”

“Everything will be all right in the end. So if it is not all right, then it is not yet the end.”

Muriel: “No thank you! If I can’t pronounce it, I don’t want to eat it!”

“Like its characters, we want to hold on to the dream that all will come out right in the end if we only check into the right address.” Christian Science Monitor Movie Review

New to Communicating Across Boundaries? Take a look at some of these posts that others have enjoyed!

26 thoughts on “Places to Retire: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the Elderly & Beautiful

  1. Namaste! I just finished reading the review and cannot wait to see this film….”The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the Elderly & Beautiful”!
    I must confess that I have had a life-long love affair with India and would like to eventually go back permanently to live there….God willing! : )) In any case, I love all the actors, Dame Judi Dench, Dame Maggie Smith, et al! : )
    I am definitely looking forward to seeing this film! Thank you for writing such an enticing review and whetting our appetites for this spicy film about India! : )) Have a great day! : ))


    1. I love this comment. I think you will love it even more than most given you history, love and desire to go back! And when you find it you must tell me because I will join you! Is it coming to an area near you or will you be seeing on DVD?


  2. REALLY enjoyed this film! I watched it a couple of months ago…in a half empty cinema in Lusaka,Zambia with two Canadians and a Danish gal. I was just so happy to hear some English accents and the humour… i especially loved the part when judi dench described dunking her biscuit in her tea… also loved the development of maggie smith’s character. i’m not sure the people I was with actually got all the jokes or knew who any of the actors/actresses were but, i laughed, had tears in my eyes and smiled the whole way through it…then spent the rest of the night dreaming of traveling to india. :D


    1. I’m so sorry that it has taken me this long to respond to your comment. I love how you watched this in Lusaka! I too loved the part on “biscuit dunking”. I learned that well from our British friends in Pakistan. I get the part of dreaming on traveling to India – I dream of going to our international terminal and getting a one way ticket to colors, chaos, and light! Thanks so much for reading!


  3. Such a good movie. Predictable – maybe. But also heartwarming, funny and enthralling. Lots to think about as well for anyone who has ever started out in a new culture.


    1. I’m so glad you brought in the piece on starting out in a new culture. So agree. Watching the contrast between those who embraced all of it, determined despite the obstacles, and the one who just could not move past her own cultural barriers was realistic. I so agree with you -heartwarming! Thank you so much for coming by!


  4. I cried through the trailer and decided I probably shouldn’t see it. I then tried to find it in our cinema only to discover it’s not playing here….and now I think I probably should see it! I’m feeling the “anger and restlessness—undefinable” as you describe it…. watching the movie would probably put me over the edge…Will any of us ever be normal? Will I?


    1. I actually think you should see it. Yes it will make you feel all those things, but better that you feel those things than forget your unique perspective, a perspective desperately needed in our world. And you can do a follow up blog post for me so you have a venue to process what you feel. The world needs the Robynn who grew up in Pakistan, lived on the banks of the Ganges, started an Ashram for the glory of God, wrote a book, loves color and life, and is learning what it’s like to live in a bit of a vacuum of all that and still discover God. Love you.


  5. After seeing this film’s trailer once, I knew I wanted to see it and was sure you would as well. Still haven’t — work and family priorities — but last week I pasted next to my desk the same lines you quoted from the film: “Everything will be all right in the end. So if it is not all right, then it is not yet the end!” Can’t wait to see it! Do you think Jaipur will join Castellina and Doolin as my dream retirement locations??


  6. Have you seen “Bride and Prejudice” a Bollywood style take on Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” – hilarious!

    I have ordered the dvd of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – comes out at the end of June.


    1. I saw Bride and Prejudice a couple of years ago and yes, liked it very much. I have to tell you Wilma, the UK puts out some superb films. And tv shows like Downton Abbey! I expect a report once you’ve watched the DVD.


  7. Can’t wait to see this film! Now I really hope you and Cliff are inspired to open the real Marigold hotel. Tim and I will retire there!


    1. I can’t believe you said this!! That’s what we want to do more than anything….or at least a guest house for the Elderly, the beautiful and those who want to enjoy Istanbul…or Cairo…or…. I am signing you up. Please send in your deposit of one thousand rupees immediately. You may bargain.


      1. I am sure you will need a gardener and a handyman…. Our offer is free gardening and maintenance in exchange for room and board, five hundred rupees deposit and a packet of marigold seeds.


    2. Of course we need a gardener to help the Gardner’s (at least this one doesn’t have a green thumb) And a handyman tops it off. Love that the deposit will include Marigold seeds.


    1. Sophie – you will love it so much. I kept on saying to Cliff – “That’s home! I want to be there!” Interesting – about an hour after I got home, I was angry, restless and couldn’t define it until I wrote the post. It was that taste of home on the screen but not in person. I felt that way after Bend it Like Beckham as well. I felt like I was the British woman next door hanging up laundry while there was a huge party going on that I could not reach.


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