Film Review: Retirees Mature in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
May 3, 2012 - By JP Spence
Director John Madden avoids the ensemble cast trappings and delivers a winner.
This is ensemble casting at the height of its powers. Director John Madden and company hit the bullseye in the funny and heartwarming The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
Adapted from the novel, These Foolish Things, by Deborah Moggach, Marigold tells the story of seven recent retirees who relocate to a posh retirement home with a slight glitch: the owner (Slumdog Millionaires Dev Patel) hasnt quite got the hotel up to snuff or code. As the hotel eventually transforms into the owners aspirations, the seven retirees mature as individuals amidst the culture shock of living in India.
Madden, best known for his film, Shakespeare in Love, continues to do what he does best: addition by subtraction. No single actor dominates the screen, which allows the viewer to understand and appreciate each character. If anything, the biggest star of the film is India and cinematographer Ben Davis does wonders capturing the stark contrast of the splendor of Indian luxury with the depravity of its slums.
The ensemble cast includes Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton, Tom Wilkinson and the aforementioned Patel. As each characters story unfolds, screenwriter Ol Parker weaves a seamless transition between back story and current plot while orchestrating them to shine collectively and individually.
Its refreshing to see most of the actors play against type. Dench is charming enough that you forget she plays a certain secret agents boss, while Wilkinson adds a tenderness that is rarely asked of the actor. Smith, especially, delivers a knockout punch as a maid who had been rendered obsolete but learns to rethink her antiquated racist views. It is a true gem of a performance.
Whats most striking about Parkers screenplay is that the film comments on very big issues both personal (death, transitioning, identity, love) and global (outsourcing, overpopulation, culture shock) without being heavy handed. This allows Marigold to be thought provoking and identifiable instead of overbearing.
It appears that Madden and the cast want to do away with the tired platitude that you cant teach an old dog, new tricks. Consider this mission accomplished.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel hits theaters May 4.