Directed by John Madden, and adapted from Deborah Moggach‘s bestselling novel by Ol Parker, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel offers a rich cast of English actors in an ensemble piece about a group of elderly pensioners who all move into the same retirement community in India.
The cast is better than the material, but The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel sports some noteworthy performances (particularly that of Judi Dench as a recent widow) and boasts the kind of feel-good story most should enjoy without becoming sappy or overly sentimental.
Our group of travelers include a penniless widow (Dench), a gay man (Tom Wilkinson) returning to India looking to reconnect with the love of his life, a henpecked husband (Bill Nighy) and his demanding wife (Penelope Wilton), a kindly but somewhat racist housekeeper (Maggie Smith) in need of a hip replacement, an aging ladies man (Ronald Pickup), and a woman (Celia Imrie) in the market for a new husband.
The strangers all come together to stay at “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the the Elderly and Beautiful” under the management of young Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel) who certainly has his heart in the right place but lacks the basic business know-how to make it succeed. Although the accommodations don’t match the brochure, the group of senior citizens agree to stay in their unlikely new home, getting to know each other and their surroundings and even fighting to stay when the hotel is threatened by Sonny’s mother (Lillete Dubey) who decides to sell the property.
There are also subplots involving some of the characters seeking out new love, the guests’ struggle with the noise, food, and unusual smells of their new home, the death of one of the group due to heart problems, and Sonny’s relationship with a telemarketer (Tena Desae) of which neither his family, nor hers, approves.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel isn’t a great film, but the setting and performances carry the story through its weaker moments. Dench is the real stand-out, but all the performances are quite good including Patel and Desae as the young lovers. Filmed on location in the cities of Jaipur and Udaipur, the movie certainly gets the unique look and feel of the setting across in the way a staged version could not have done.
The DVD and Blu-ray include short featurettes on the film’s cast and the locations used for the film (including on specifically for the hotel), and a short interview with the director.
[20th Century Fox, DVD $29.98 / Blu-ray $39.99]