THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL
*** (out of 5)
May 4, 2012
Judi Dench as EVELYN GREENSLADE
Tom Wilkinson as GRAHAM DASHWOOD
Bill Nighy as DOUGLAS AINSLIE
Penelope Wilton as JEAN AINSLIE
Maggie Smith as MURIEL DONNELLY
Ronald Pickup as NORMAN COUSINS
Celia Imrie as MADGE HARDCASTLE
Directed by: John Madden
BY KEVIN CARR
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The British are just fascinated with India. They have been since before they conquered and colonized the land, later granting independence to the Indian people. It only seems fitting that this British fascination with India got turned into a movie (well, a book first, then a movie). And this all happens in the most polite, proper way, as you’d expect from British senior citizens.
“The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” follows a disparate group of Brits in their later years who decide to vacation in India. Some plan to stay for a while; others expect to return home eventually. However, when their lives come together, and they begin to accept their place in the hopeful yet run-down grand hotel of yesteryear, they discover new things about themselves.
The coming-of-age film is nothing new in Hollywood, and the formula is the same here. The big difference is that these aren’t tweens becoming teens or high school kids becoming adults. These are people for whom most of their lives are behind them. It’s a coming-of-old-age film, which is similar to movies like “It’s Complicated” and even “Grumpy Old Men.”
The focus in this film is the characters accepting what they’ve become, and that’s “old.” But they also realize that in these later years, there is still time to start new chapters in their lives and reconnect with loose ends of the past.
“The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” succeeds most of the time because of its cast, which is a who’s who of classy British actors. Without these charming faces in the roles, the movie would quickly slip into cliche and triteness. Even with people like Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson and Bill Nighy raising the level of quality of the film with their very presence, “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” is at times a bit cheesy.
A lot of the cheesiness comes from Dev Patel, whose breakout role was the protagonist in “Slumdog Millionaire.” Maybe it was because he had a terrible role in the godawful M. Night Shyamalan adaptation of “The Last Airbender.” Maybe it was because I saw him in the British film “Skins” and realized he’s not actually from India. Maybe it’s that he’s just not that good of an actor, Academy Award-winning films be damned.
Whatever the case, Patel slathers on a goofy Indian accent that would make Apu from “The Simpsons” blush. His character is a bit too much of the overly eager would-be hotel manager, a dreamer of big dreams. Unfortunately, he comes across like a caricature of a smiling Indian from the British colonial days.
The other big hurdle this film faces is a daisy-chain of woefully predictable plot points and story cliches. Like bad dialogue delivered by brilliant actors, the biggest plot offenses are forgivable because they are presented by the most charming cast you’ll likely see on screen this year. But that doesn’t stop the film from being quite silly at times, unintentionally so.
“The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” will work splendidly with its target demographic, similar to television programs like “60 Minutes” and “Murder She Wrote.” Pretty much anyone with an AARP card will relate to this movie in some way and therefore adore it. However, it’s going to be lost on the younger audience, which is about everyone the studios hope will see a film.