A group of British retirees are enticed by advertisements about a supposedly wonderful hotel in India called The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, a place for the “elderly and beautiful”. They are; the newly widowed Evelyn who is losing her home to pay off her husband’s debts, Graham a retired high court judge who grew up in India, would-be lothario Norman, equally ‘looking for fun’ and much married Madge, racist ex-housekeeper Muriel who is going to India for a hip replacement, and Douglas and Jeaan, whose marriage is on the rocks.
If you’re under 50, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel sounds like one of those films your take your mother or grandmother too and just put up with without really enjoying. Well, it most certainly is a film for the elderly generation [the screen I watched it in was absolutely packed with old people], but there’s nothing wrong with that, and if you’re patient the film does have its pleasures even if you are not the target audience. Beginning as a straight-up comedy, with some of the funniest lines I’ve heard in ages [though admittedly you will have heard many of them in the trailer!], it doesn’t really proceed like one, and for some of its length moves at a pace more arthritic than any of its characters, but like them does attain some considerable dignity and ends up becoming rather involving. One particular subplot involving a character’s hidden past is especially well handled and ends in a very moving way, while all the major cast members act their socks off and are all given their moments to shine. The Indian city of Jaipur is a character in itself with all its vibrancy and colour, though a subplot involving Slumdog Millionaire’s Dev Patel [whose character will totally win you over with his cheerful optimism] seems like it belongs more in that film, and overall the movie doesn’t really hang together. However, its portrayal of people in their later years living their life to the full is very pleasing and one to be admired, and, though good in fits and spurts rather than continuously, when it is good, it’s relaxed charm and disdain for the typical Western view of old age as something pitiful may very well win you over. Whatever your age.