The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011)
Dir: John Madden
So that’s what the ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ spent his winnings on!
This is a charming ensemble piece, bringing together some of the best ‘mature’ British acting talent, including Dame Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, and the always superb Maggie Smith. They star as a group of pensioners who for various reasons relocate to a fledgling retirement hotel in India, run by a young man (Dev Patel, ‘Slumdog Millionaire’) who is incredibly passionate about it but well out of his depth.
I was surprised to learn that a lot of production companies had passed on developing this, and I can only imagine that they didn’t have the full cast confirmed when they did. It was made on the tiny budget of $10 million, and took $134 million at the box office, undoubtedly drawn in by this stellar cast. I’ll watch almost anything with Dench, Nighy, or Smith in it, and I’m only 25, these are quality actors that people older than myself will take a trusted sign that they might enjoy a film.
Each character is nicely developed, though some more than others, and we get a sense of what made them decide to move to India for their retirement, interestingly with some of the factors being very practical financial considerations. This gives the film an oppertunity to comment on the societal differences in the way that the elderly are looked after in Britain and India. Throughout the film the elderly are respectfully called ‘Auntie’ or ‘Uncle’ by the Indians most of whom are complete strangers to them. It’s something I’ve learnt from enjoying a good chunk of Indian cinema (not just Bollywood), that there’s great respect for the elderly in their culture, and this is a major factor for Dev Patel’s character Sonny.
There’s a lot of great humour and warmth to this film, however there’s also the rare bit of sexual humour that almost feels out of place and doesn’t add anything to the film, it’s a risky choice that was probably made in an attempt to find a balance between appeasing an older and younger audience demographic. For the most part though it’s a film that you could be quite happy sitting down and watching with older friends and family members, and may just remind some people that even in later years these aged ones are valuable members of society and not to overlook them, or else they may just move to India.
Click on the poster above for the trailer.