“The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” is best taken on its own tems – a low season, quite delicious, non-nutritious way of passing a wintry afternoon. It boasts a who’s who of British class actors: Judi Dench (now sadly, almost 90% blind), Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Tom WIlkinson, Penelope Wilton and Celia Imrie, along with Dev Patel (from “Slumdog Millionaire”). Basically the story concerns a bunch of elderly folk , each a clearly drawn ‘type’, who can no longer afford to live in England and who, lured by the tempting advertisement of this hotel, all turn up there to start a new life in Jaipuir. You pretty much know where all the interrelated stories are going; you know at some stage Dev Patel will sand up against his domineering mother and proclaim true love for Sunaina (Tena Desae, who I hope we see more of); you know the oft repeated mantra (“everything comes out fine in the end; and if things aren’t fine now, it isn’t the end as yet”) will be the signpost that we’re meant to follow etc etc.
So, a story that offers no surprises; dare I say, a story as cliche-rich as you’re likely to find.
And yet, and yet… this master-class of actors inject incredible life, humanity and charm to their characters. Director John Madden (who also gave us the under-appreciated “The Debt” and “Shakespeare in Love”) keeps the tone light and skips over some of the glaring absurdities in the plot.
Sometimes we see movies through the lense of our lives. The fact that a few years ago I spent a few wonderful days here in Jaipur and in the fabulously beautiful Udaipur (which the group of hotel guests visit at some stage) no doubt added to my enjoyment of this charming trifle.