May. 23, 2012 - Issue #866: Little Elephants
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
The ensemble cast is filled with British notables—Judy Dench, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson and Dev Patel, among others—and it's directed by John Madden, who won the best picture Oscar for Shakespeare in Love. Like all travel companions, each retiree's story begins separately and ends up shared, and in this way the story flows neatly, with plenty of witty one-liners to keep us smiling, particularly when the film's middle-aged siren, Madge (Celia Imrie) tells party pooper Jean (Penelope Wilton) that her wedding anniversary should be marked with a "moment of silence." You'll quickly notice that the characters feel familiar and resemble relatives we love and loathe: the dirty-talking aunt or uncle, the racist granny, the scholar or the humble, all-enduring mother.
Through private conversations between travellers, each character's reason for travelling to India to live out their golden years is revealed—except for one, who's secret is held until midway in an attempt to ante up the drama. But the plot doesn't rest solely on the emigrating retirees: there is also a local, albeit cliché, love story between Sonny (Dev Patel) and Sunaina (Tena Desae) which will appeal to Bollywood enthusiasts. Sonny is part owner of the Marigold Hotel and has big dreams for the resort, but is struggling to keep it and its ripe guests alive. In the end it is the most unsuspecting guest who helps Sonny to keep his dream from slipping through his fingers.
There is a lot to appreciate in the film, despite the expected Kama Sutra and Viagra experiments (yes there is also joke about green bananas). The film appeals to the explorer, raising questions about our willingness to see the world and make connections, delivering a sublime message: it's never too late to change, and no matter what age there are still things to learn, parts of ourselves to figure out and risks to be taken.
Directed by John Madden
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