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A group of British retirees "outsource" their retirement to less expensive and seemingly exotic India. Enticed by advertisements for the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and bolstered with visions of a life of leisure, they arrive to find the palace a shell of its former self, managed by young the son of the late owner, Sonny (Dev Patel). Though the new environment is far less luxurious than imagined, they each experience a life changing experience.

Review by Louise Keller:
Chasing dreams, embracing change and quoting Kipling are some of the elements of this funny, bittersweet and uplifting tale set against a chaotic, colourful backdrop in India. Adapted from Deborah Moggach's novel These Foolish Things, the lives of strangers are woven together in a garland of opportunity, although if spicy cuisine symbolises the possibilities, nirvana is unlikely without some indigestion. Risk and love are the wheels of the journey in which secrets are revealed, self esteem is earned and destinies sealed. It's a delightful film whose dry humour crackles in the tropical heat as the search for happiness takes flight.

In the early scenes, we meet the players whose destinies are soon to be come intertwined at their common destination - The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel in Jaipur, where outsourcing old age is the dream of its enthusiastic but impractical young manager Sonny (Patel). The irony that many call centres are outsourced to India does not escape us. Newly widowed Evelyn (Dench) is on the phone to such a call centre when the film begins, having spent her life as a doormat wife. High court judge Graham (Wilkinson) makes a snap decision to retire from the bench and Jean (Wilton) and her downtrodden husband Douglas (Nighy) are reluctant to commit to a retirement village in their meager price bracket. Madge (Imrie) is on the prowl for a new husband, Norman (Pickup) is tired of dating agencies but wants to be needed and Muriel (Smith) needs a hip operation in a hurry.

Things go wrong from the very start when the group of seven squeezes into a jam-packed local bus after the promised airport pick-up doesn't arrive, luggage thrown helter skelter on top. But that's not all. The hotel of the brochure with the mysterious name that promises luxury and elegance (for 'the elderly and the beautiful'), is a shambling, dusty mess with cockroaches, missing doors and telephones that don't work. Everything will be alright in the end, Sonny reassures his concerned guests with a well known quote, saying that if things are not alright, it means it is not yet the end. Kipling's quote about treating disaster the same as triumph is also part of his philosophy.

The different response by each guest to the new environment is the gateway to the adventure that follows. It's going to be extraordinary, says Graham, who spent his early life in India and has a secret purpose. I'm in hell, the elderly Muriel moans while Jean hates everything on sight - loudly. Maggie Smith as the dour Muriel has a field day with one-liners, like 'I can't plan that far ahead; I can't even buy green bananas', when told she might have to wait six months for her hip operation. Jean stays put at the hotel, continuing her tirade of complaints. But Douglas is stimulated by the smiling youngsters and visiting the local temples, while Evelyn carves out a new life for herself. There are some chuckles as Madge and Norman set out on their respective journeys to find themselves a mate.

One of best things about the story is that we are constantly surprised and that our initial predictions about what may happen and how the characters evolve are quickly turned on their head. John Madden (The Debt) imbues the film with a lovely depth and richness as he embraces the Indian culture, and chaotic lifestyle. We can almost smell the rich, hot air and feel the humidity amidst the markets and stalls where ornate clothes and brightly coloured flowers jump out. It's easy to soak in the flavours of India, driving through the noisy crowded streets in a tuc tuc or rickshaw, avoiding the painfully thin cows amid the traffic mayhem and the cacophony of multi-tone sounds.

All the performances are excellent with special mention to Dench, Nighy and Wilkinson who shine as brightly as Indian polished brass, while Patel is good as the well-meaning hotel manager in love with the call centre's lovely Sunaina (Tena Desae). The scene in the call centre stairwell in which he reveals his feelings for her (via her brother) is very funny. There's a nice contrast between these light hearted scenes and others filled with pathos. This is a film for a mature audience: just take along a sense of humour, a curious mind and an open heart.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Just like the brochure for the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, the film, with its much loved British veterans such as Maggie Smith, Judi Dench and Tom Wilkinson, holds out a promise of adventure and a rich, colourful entertainment. And just like the Indian location of Jaipur, the film is a chaotic and colourful mixture of the predictable, the charming and the contrived.

The adaptation from the novel has perfunctory lapses, as if in sympathy with its elderly characters. Clearly, this is for the over 50s and there's nothing wrong with that as most over 50s are frustrated by the scarcity of grown up cinema. But perhaps the screenplay could have been a bit more subtle and clever. The confessions of private pain is not something that characterises the Brits, especially not the sorts of characters who have (for reasons not made clear) all ended up in this run down hotel, ageing at a faster rate than the new guests.

The filmmakers don't bother with establishing anything very much, letting a name tag and a truncated clip introduce us to the characters. Of whom there are too many for the filmmakers to successfully handle.

The romantic threads that are woven through the film range from the young hotelier's struggle against his mother's wishes as he mishandles his romance with a local girl, to the sadder side of loneliness as old codgers look for companionship - and sex.

Sure, the cast performs valiantly as we expect, and as a genuine ensemble, but as each character moves along their emotional journey, it is silhouetted against the setting and laid out workmanlike, without the subtleties we crave.

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(UK, 2011)

CAST: Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Maggie Smith, Dev Patel, Penelope Wilton, Ramona Marquez, Celia Imrie, Ronald Pickup

PRODUCER: Graham Broadbent, Peter Czernin

DIRECTOR: John Madden

SCRIPT: Ol Parker (novel by Deborah Moggach)


EDITOR: Chris Gill

MUSIC: Thomas Newman


RUNNING TIME: 123 minutes



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