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.
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
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