“The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” (A Nickell-odeon Review)

June 5, 2012

If you are not a senior citizen and plan never to become one, perhaps you could skip The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. But I wouldn’t recommend doing so.

Produced by Fox Searchlight Pictures, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a surprisingly engaging story about a group of British pensioners who—for diverse reasons—opt to retire to Jaipur, India, to a hotel that, well, proves to be much less than advertised. The seven—played by aging actors Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Penelope Wilton, Celia Imrie, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, and Ronald Pickup—is filled with comic, tragic, and tragicomic moments.

Of the tragic, there is a death, the end of a marriage of 39 years, and the blatant, hurtful racism of one pensioner. But comic elements mitigate, stemming from incongruities sprinkled throughout. For instance, one riotous scene begins with an amorous character slipping into her intended’s bed—not knowing that there had been a room change!

As to the tragicomic: The young Indian hotelier, Sonny (Dev Patel), is both overly optimistic and rather incompetent—as witness his adding to the run-down hotel’s signs: “Now with Guests.” But he gets by with his slogan that things will be all right in the end, and, if they are not all right, then it is not yet the end. He could be describing his relationship with his beautiful love Sunaina (Tena Desae) and the opposition to the match by both her brother and his mother. The latter even seeks to sell the hotel out from under him, but, as you may expect, it’s not yet the end.

Again and again, everyone’s situation worsens, then proves transformative as each learns to become reconciled to aging and/or to challenging situations. There is much here to warm the hearts of secular humanists—of whatever age.

Rating: Three and a half wooden nickels (out of four)

Three and a half Nickels