Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011)

"Everything will be alright in the end, and if it's not, then it is not yet the end."
This film is about 7 aging Londoners as they attempt to adjust to a new way of life at what they are told is a retirement home in Jaipur, India.  The hotel itself is not quite what they expected, it's in a bit of a transitional period itself much like its new guests.  While everyone has different reasons for leaving their old lives behind, suffice it to say, they are all in a place in their lives where they are in need of change of scenery and this one is promised to be an affordable option.  Everyone has a lesson to learn, some room for personal growth, or are simply making a last ditch effort to experience something one last time.

It may be easy to write off this film because it's about a group of people ranging from their 60's to late 70's, but make no mistake this film is young at heart and never feels boring.  Dev Patel (from Slumdog Millionaire) is thrown into the mix as the young owner of the failing retirement home.  He is a very optimistic and energetic character, making him a nice foil to the rest of the ensemble cast made up of elderly people who are taking it a bit slower while adjusting to their new environment.

If I had to sum it up in a short paragraph I could do no better than Roger Ebert's assessment:
"As we meet them jammed on the bus from the airport, we suspect that the film will be about their various problems and that the hotel will not be as advertised.  What we may not expect is what a charming, funny and heartwarming movie this is, a smoothly crafted entertainment that makes good use of seven superb veterans."
It's a credit to director John Madden and screenwriter Ol Parker (based on novel "These Foolish Things" by Deborah Moggach) that they were able to balance all the characters and give them enough screen time to let their stories play out all while weaving them together seamlessly.  The dialogue is well written (even if there is a bit of an overabundance of inspirational sayings thrown in) and the cast of veteran actors all do a very good job with their given roles.

The older we get the more set in our ways we become, while the younger we are the more adaptable we are, this is what makes the character's transformations more impressive in the end.  As difficult as it is to step out of your comfort zone and try something new, imagine how difficult it would be when you're in your 60's or 70's and you've never done anything like it before.  All the character's stories are interesting in their own way and all of them have something to accomplish whether they initially mean to or not.  These characters are easy to connect to in some way shape or form.  I think everyone, young and old, have experienced something similar to these characters at some point in our lives whether they realize it or not.  We've all come to a point where we've been in Evelyn's (Judi Dench) shoes, thinking to ourselves, "Nothing here has worked out quite as I expected."  But Mrs. Donnelly (Maggie Smith) has encouraging words for us, "Most things don't... But you know, sometimes what happens instead is the good stuff."

It's what happened instead that we find here in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and it's an enjoyable film that has slipped under the radar.  Do yourself a favor and check it out.

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