February 18, 2012 at 10:56 am #55132
i’m dreading this myself, and this review doesn’t make me do so any less. But it likely (mainly because it has veteran Brit actors in it) could figure for awards down the line.
It opens in the UK shortly, but not in the US till May
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
By Leslie Felperin
OTHER RECENT REVIEWS:
A Fox Searchlight (in U.S.)/20th Century Fox (in U.K.) release of a Fox Searchlight presentation, in association with Participant Media, Imagenation Abu Dhabi, of a Blueprint Pictures production, in association with Dune Entertainment, Ingenious Media, Big Screen Prods., Ingenious Film Partners. Produced by Graham Broadbent, Peter Czernin. Executive producers, Jeff Skoll, Ricky Strauss, Jonathan King. Co-producers, Caroline Hewitt, Sarah Harvey. Directed by John Madden. Screenplay, Ol Parker, based on the novel “These Foolish Things” by Deborah Moggach.
Evelyn Greenslade – Judi Dench
Muriel Donnelly – Maggie Smith
Douglas Ainslie – Bill Nighy
Jean Ainslie – Penelope Wilton
Graham Dashwood – Tom Wilkinson
Madge Hardcastle – Celia Imrie
Norman Cousins – Ronald Pickup
Sonny Kapoor – Dev Patel
Sunaina – Tena Desae
Jay – Sid Makkar
India is the new Italy for retirees seeking a hot climate to renew their lust for life, based on the evidence of comedy-drama “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.” Frequently droll and likable, albeit thoroughly predictable, helmer John Madden’s latest boasts a crack cast of seasoned thesps who sock over every wry line and wring maximum emotional resonance from a sometimes clunky script about a gaggle of Brit seniors who move to Jaipur. The potentially huge but usually underserved demographic of 50-plus auds could take a real shine to “Marigold,” if cultivated correctly.
Quickfire opening montage, featuring tiny scenes spliced together so quickly it plays like a 50 Cent video, relates the circumstances of the pic’s seven elderly protags. Recently widowed Evelyn Greenslade (Judi Dench) has just found out her late husband frittered away most of their money and has to sell her plush London home to pay off debts. Married couple Douglas and Jean Ainslie (Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilton) have likewise been unlucky and lost all their savings investing in their daughter’s struggling startup.
Senior singletons Madge Hardcastle (Celia Imrie) and Norman Cousins (Ronald Pickup) long to find new love partners, or, in Norman’s case, to just get to have sex again. Retired high-court judge Graham Dashwood (Tom Wilkinson) merely longs for a change of scene. Finally, diehard xenophobe Muriel Donnelly (Maggie Smith) discovers that getting a hip replacement and recovering from it in India would be a better option than what’s on offer from Blighty’s national health service.
All of the above thus choose to “outsource” themselves to the newly opened Best Exotic Marigold Hotel in Jaipur, a once-stately, now-ramshackle palace that irrepressibly optimistic owner Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel) has presciently marketed to the Geritol set as a retirement residence. However, he’s rather played down in his brochure the lack of doors on some of the rooms and presence of roosting pigeons in others.
The seven transplants take up various attitudinal positions on India. Having been raised there as a child and back now to search for a long-lost love, Graham embraces India’s challenges, its kind people and beauty. At the other end of the spectrum, Jean is horrified by the inefficiency and squalor, and refuses to venture further than the hotel compound, while Muriel, incapacitated by her surgery, similarly stays put and insists she won’t eat anything she doesn’t know how to pronounce.
Perhaps trying to reflect the sensory overload of the country in which it’s set, the pic barely relaxes the pace after its whirlwind opening. Script by Ol Parker, adapted from a novel by Deborah Moggach, quickly cycles through the various characters’ storylines as the relationships between them fracture and reconfigure with dizzying speed.
At times it feels as if Parker and Madden (“The Debt”) have crammed in too much, the equivalent of six months’ worth of soap-opera action, into the two-hour running time. The speed with which Muriel, for instance, converts from total racist to wise, kindly old dear by the end stretches credibility too far, even allowing for the slack auds will cut the ever lovable Smith in the role. Elsewhere, some might feel uncomfortable about the fact that the only gay character gets handily killed off before he does anything that might frighten the horses or the film’s more conservative target aud.
However, the powerhouse cast is so capable, the actors just about manage to play the pic as if it were a “Midsummer Night’s Dream”-style frothy farce, with marigold garlands and picturesque poverty. Even when things grow a bit darker, there are still zingers to be enjoyed, such as when Imrie’s vampish Madge, dreading old age, tartly declaims, “I don’t want to be the first person they let off the train in a hostage crisis.”
Underneath all larkiness, “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” makes interesting points about the challenges facing elderly people trying to cope in an adverse economic climate, and the globalization of service industries. Although the point is too tidily made, there’s an interesting parallel between the way companies outsource customer care to call centers in India and the way seniors are forced to retire to developing nations where their money will go further. Ten or 20 years ago, the pic’s characters might have found themselves in Spain’s Costa del Sol or one of Italy’s remoter regions, but the weakness of the pound versus the Euro makes the core premise a not unlikely one.
Use of color and sound reps the standout element of the pro tech package, and the assistant director deserves a particular shoutout for wrangling the crowd scenes so well. Location work ably captures the dusty, dirty vigor and visual glory of Jaipur.
Camera (Deluxe color, widescreen), Ben Davis; editor, Chris Gill; music, Thomas Newman; production designer, Alan Macdonald; supervising art director, Peter Francis; art director, Dilip More; set decorator, Tina Jones; costume designer, Louise Stjernsward; sound (SDDS/Dolby Digital), Resul Pookutty; supervising sound editor, Ian Wilson; supervising re-recording mixer, Tim Cavigin; re-recording mixers, Steve Single, Craig Irving; special effects coordinator, Shiva Nanda; visual effects supervisor, Jody Johnson; visual effects, Double Negative; stunt coordinator, Sham Kushal; line producer, Pravesh Sahni; assistant director, Udayan Baijal; second unit camera, Mike Eley; casting, Michelle Guish, Seher Latif. Reviewed at 20th Century Fox screening room, London, Jan. 11, 2012. Running time: 124 MIN.February 18, 2012 at 11:50 am #55134
Finally, diehard xenophobe Muriel Donnelly (Maggie Smith) discovers that getting a hip replacement and recovering from it in India would be a better option than what’s on offer from Blighty’s national health service.
Was this film funded by the Koch brothers?
Elsewhere, some might feel uncomfortable about the fact that the only gay character gets handily killed off before he does anything that might frighten the horses or the film’s more conservative target aud.
Or maybe Focus on the Family?February 18, 2012 at 1:49 pm #55135
There’s already a thread for this. Repost this review there.February 18, 2012 at 2:37 pm #55136
could you bump it please?
meantime here is HRep’s much better review (David Rooney)
A first-rate assembly of actors led by Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy and Tom Wilkinson adds class and sly wit to director John Madden’s charming Indian odyssey.
NEW YORK – Some will doubtless roll their cynical eyes, but many of us are suckers for gray-liberation movies in which the English break out of their emotionally constricted shells abroad, frequently stumbling upon the lost spirit of their youth in the process. It’s hard to go wrong when you assemble actors of the caliber of Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy and Tom Wilkinson, and that cast alone should provide Fox Searchlight with a tidy international audience for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
our editor recommends
Director John Madden’s captivating seriocomedy, set against the bustle and color of Jaipur, India, will be a particular crowdpleaser among the under-served over-60 demographic. Adapted by Ol Parker from Deborah Moggach’s novel, “These Foolish Things,” the story has its share of mechanical developments. But even at its most predictable, the winning characterizations and soulful insights into aging keep the handsome film on a warmly satisfying track.
Slapping their names up on the screen, Madden and Parker introduce each of the central characters in an extended pre-titles sequence that plants them all at awkward crossroads.
Forced to sell her London flat to pay off her husband’s mountain of debt, recently widowed Evelyn (Dench) is reluctant to move in with their son’s family. High Court Judge Graham (Wilkinson) is retiring after a long and respected career. Mild-mannered Douglas (Nighy) and his joyless snob of a wife, Jean (Penelope Wilton), have sunk their retirement funds into their daughter’s failed Internet startup. Madge (Celia Imrie) is too frisky to stay home playing granny, and randy old Norman (Ronald Pickup) can no longer continue lying about his age on dating sites. Muriel (Smith) is a long-serving housekeeper put out to pasture by her employers and now in urgent need of a hip replacement, which is prohibitively expensive or requires a long wait in England.
Responding to an advertisement for a “luxury development for residents in their golden years,” they fly to India. Strangers on arrival, they all seek some ineffable transformation, whether it’s independence, companionship, adventure, reconciliation with the past or simple dignity.
They receive an effusive welcome from Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel), a well-intentioned but disorganized young entrepreneur who inherited the once-grand hotel from his father. But it soon becomes clear that improvements on the dilapidated property have stalled. In addition to a retreating investor, Sonny faces obstacles from his overbearing mother (Lillette Dubey). She aims to force him into a more secure business and an arranged marriage, frowning on his far-too-modern girlfriend (Tena Desae).
While Parker’s screenplay is a little schematic, it elegantly traces the ways in which the Marigold guests adapt to their chaotic new surroundings. For some, like Evelyn and Douglas, the freeing effects are almost instantaneous, establishing them as kindred spirits and seeding a gentle flirtation. For Muriel, an unapologetic racist who just wants a new hip and a fast ticket home, the humanization happens despite her worst instincts when she inadvertently shows kindness to a lower-caste hotel housekeeper. Jean, by contrast, becomes more entrenched in her resistance to anything new and unknown.
The most affecting thread follows Graham, the sole member of the group with a previous connection to India, having spent his privileged childhood there. A gay man “more in theory than in practice nowadays,” he has lived with regret and self-recrimination since returning to England to go to college. He left behind the love of his youth to face what he assumes was a life of shame. Observed with sensitivity and played with a deep well of sorrow by Wilkinson, this story breathes real tenderness into the movie’s reflections on growing older and making peace with past mistakes.
The heart of the film, however, is Evelyn, whose blog entries, heard in voiceover, provide a running commentary. It’s news to nobody at this point that Dench is a class act, and she depicts with the most delicate of brushstrokes the late-in-life reflowering of a woman previously defined through her marriage. Nighy matches Dench with his subtle work. Playing a droll variation on the henpecked husband, he shrugs off Jean’s barbs until her unrelenting negativity causes Douglas to explode in a terrific confrontation. Wilton is all brittleness and pretentious airs (“Obviously, one’s read one’s Kipling”), but even Jean is allowed a hint of redemptive humanity in Parker’s generous screenplay.
On the heels of her peerless work in Downton Abbey, it’s refreshing to see quintessential toff Smith play working-class. Her turnabout is a perhaps too abrupt to be believed, but the actress deftly handles sour Muriel’s gradual discovery of a new sense of purpose as she assumes a decisive role in the hotel’s survival. Imrie and Pickup play it a little broader but with brio nonetheless. And in the most substantial of the Indian roles, Patel (Slumdog Millionaire) brings an appealing grasp of gangly physical comedy. He pushes the ingratiating, over-caffeinated ethnic stereotype in ways that offset the generally more understated work of the senior cast.
Cinematographer Ben Davis puts a crisp gloss on the Rajasthan locations, his cameras opting for vigorous mobility or serenity as the immediate environment dictates. And Thomas Newman’s flavorful score adds to the intoxicating sensory overload. The film’s pacing may be a touch leisurely for some, but its core audience no doubt will relish having time to savor the rewards of a mellow story about endearing characters learning that change is never entirely out of reach.
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