Looking at WNY’s visual art, theater, music, and dance scenes.
May 18, 2012
08:09 AMTalk about Arts
Movie Review: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Films opening this weekend:
Battleship - Maple Ridge; Market Arcade, Flix Dipsons; Transit, Elmwood, Galleria, Hollywood, Quaker Regals; Transit Drive-In - REVIEW
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - Amherst, Eastern Hills Dipsons
Crooked Arrows - Transit, Quaker Regals
The Dictator - Maple Ridge; Amherst, Market Arcade, Flix Dipsons; Transit, Elmwood, Galleria, Hollywood, Quaker Regals; Transit Drive-In - REVIEW
What to Expect When You're Expecting - Maple Ridge; Market Arcade, Flix Dipsons; Transit, Elmwood, Galleria, Hollywood, Quaker Regals
It's a rare success to see a film as great as The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel excel because of its cast of seniors. Since this bunch of peerless British performers so often shine in the background, we forget how good they really are. An inspired group, they portray Deborah Moggach's odd mix of retirees with an authenticity that brings her novel These Foolish Things to life inside the vibrant hustle and bustle of its Indian locale.
Whether looking for new love, lost love, companionship, an escape from reality, or a plain and simple purpose, each finds meaning in a country that—as Tom Wilkinson's Graham expounds—treats life as a gift, not a right. It's an apt description and exactly the catalyst necessary to turn their troublesome golden years into a renaissance.
In a very disparate work from his last, The Debt, British director John Madden has crafted an ensemble dramedy that retains the strength of character and humanism he's been known to tackle since his Oscar-winning Shakespeare in Love. Screenwriter Ol Parker balances everyone perfectly to make sure no one overshadows the rest and even finds time to do their exuberant lunatic of a caretaker Sonny (Dev Patel) justice.
While containing lighthearted comedy, the laughs are genuine and often due to stellar acting and superb fish-out-of-water circumstances. Reuniting Shaun's parents from Shaun of the Dead, Bill Nighy (Douglas) and Penelope Wilton (Jean) bring an odd couple rapport with their financially strapped duo. After sinking his retirement into their daughter's start-up internet company, the two are seeking adventure abroad. Douglas shows a real flair for new experiences and becomes quick chums with Judi Dench's Evelyn, a widow off to live independently for the first time in her life.
With them is Muriel (Maggie Smith), a curmudgeonly racist looking for a quick and cheap hip replacement; Madge (Celia Imrie) and Norman (Ronald Pickup), separately looking to find a spark of romance without the marginalization of age back in England; and Graham (Wilkinson), returning to the land that raised him before returning to London for an auspicious judicial career away from the love he left behind.
One of the unique pleasures of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is how perfectly the filmmakers capture India. So often the landscape of this third world nation is used in Western cinema to portray poverty, crime, or other forms of squalor—much like Wilton's Jean's initial thoughts. But there is so much more to the country than beggars, cutthroat merchants, and an extremely dry heat. Madden lets the streets express both the fear and rush of adrenaline each time you get inside a bus, tuk-tuk, or rickshaw; brings a touch of the spirituality of Hinduism; and introduces us to Jaipur through its old city's pink walls, as I was during my own visit last year.
We eventually find ourselves aligning with one or more characters as their struggles mirror ours. Dench will inspire you to take a chance and find happiness through writing, Nighy exemplifies what it means to shake oneself from the doldrums of safe and easy, and Wilkinson shows how a prison can be just as powerful and restricting emotionally as it can physically.
Watching Smith's evolution and growth in her late-70s along with Pickup and Imrie's refusal to let rejection stop them from being the sexual creatures they are gives a sense of hope where only despair existed. Love dissolves, forms, and overcomes for all, and no one ever takes a false step despite the plot's lack of any real surprises. But that's exactly why I loved it so much; its portrayal of life is so smoothly authentic that its lack of twists and turns becomes the best surprise of all.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel 9/10 | ★ ★ ★ ½
 Judi Dench as “Evelyn,” Tom Wilkinson as “Graham,” and Bill Nighy as “Douglas” star in THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL Photo by Ishika Mohan
 Tena Desae as “Sunaina” and Dev Patel as “Sonny” star in THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL Photo by Ishika Mohan