Lost in an Exotic Locale
Rated: PG-13 Sexual content and language
Release Date: May 4, 2012
Runtime: 2 hrs 4 mins
Director: John Madden
Writers: Ol Parker, from the novel 'These Foolish Things' by Deborah Moggach
Cast: Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Dev Patel, Penelope Wilton, Celia Imrie, Tena Desae, Ronald Pickup
SYNOPSIS: A group of British retirees find their way to India to a less than desirable hotel for a variety of reasons. While there, they struggle with finding their purpose.
REVIEW: John Madden, director of The Debt and Shakespeare in Love, brings together a collection of the best British actors and actresses for a tale revolving around the elderly and beautiful. With an adaptation by Imagine Me and You writer Ol Parker based on the Deborah Moggach novel 'These Foolish Things', Madden takes the audience, young and old, on a journey of discovery.Several retired British men and women find themselves at a tipping point in their lives. Evelyn (Judi Dench, J. Edgar) lives a life of solitude after her husband's death, finding that he left her in a pool of debt. Bigoted and unhappy Muriel (Maggie Smith, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2) needs a new hip and can have the procedure completed more cheaply and more quickly outside of England. Graham (Tom Wilkinson, The Green Hornet) decides that he doesn't want to wait for a retirement party to make a change in his life. Douglas (Bill Nighy, Arthur Christmas) and his wife Jean (Penelope Wilton, The History Boys) have money troubles and a desperate need for a change. Madge (Celia Imrie, Nanny McPhee) looks for a change in scenery and a possible future husband, while Norman (Ronald Pickup, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time) looks for some passion. All of them find themselves in India at a less than elegant and less than functional hotel run by a dreamy-eyed Sonny (Dev Patel, Slumdog Millionaire) looking to restore the wonder and glory into the establishment that his father always hoped to open.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (for the Eldery and Beautiful, as director John Madden joked that he would have added to the title if he could have) brings together the best and most talented actors and actresses from across the pond. Director John Madden artfully and skillfully weaves a colorful tapestry for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, telling a series of personal stories about the unfulfilled dreams of youth and the forgotten dreams of the elderly. Each member of this group traveling from Great Britain to India has their own reasons for the journey - most of them not of their accord. Forced from their homes due to finance or injury or unresolved issues, they arrive at a hotel run by Sonny that in no way resembles the gorgeous establishment depicted from the brochure or website. Evelyn, Graham, Norman, Muriel, Douglas and Jean, and Madge each has a road to travel looking for something missing in their lives. Evelyn had never done anything without her husband at her side. Graham seeks out a friend from his childhood in India years ago. Norman looks for a new outlet for romance and passion. Muriel, forced to travel to India for an operation, just tries to endure the trip. With Douglas and Jean, Douglas goes out to enjoy the wonders of the culture and the city while his wife Jean sits in the grassy courtyard of the hotel hoping life will change for the better. Madge seeks out adventure in hopes of snaring a husband. And Sonny, trying to fulfill his own and his late father's dreams of operating the hotel, tries to live up to the self imposed standards of worth for his girlfriend Sunaina (Tena Desae). All of their stories are told with attention to detail and handled with reverence and care, using the bustle and beauty of the city to help craft a visual pleasing and uttering engrossing film.
The caliber of artists involved in this film makes it worth seeing. Dench, Wilkinson, Nighy, Smith, Wilton, Imrie, and Pickup are a director's dream team. Each brings with them a stable of films and accolades and talent that allow the structure of the story to become something more than the sum of its parts. With the direction of Madden and a solid script from Parker, everyone in the cast is allowed to shine. Dench brings a practiced innocence to her role. Nighy struts about like a knight dismounting his steed, full of chivalry and vigor. Wilkinson and his softly booming voice commands attention at every turn. Maggie Smith speaks volumes with only a tilt of her head or roll of her eyes. Imrie and Pickup show that age is truly just a number. Not to be left out, Dev Patel's Sonny rattles on with boisterous and politely spoken dreams, only trying to secure the worth and love of the beautiful and sweet Tena Desae's Sunaina.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is one of those rare quiet films that spellbinds simply on the strength of the story, its cast members, and exotic locale. Madden uses his skills to the fullest, by letting his cast do what they do best. The story is funny and tender, sweet and real, subtle and simple. Through all of our lives, we live and survive. Some of us may live our entire lives content and fulfilled, but other may find that as the sun starts to descend in the western skies, their foot has stepped upon an unknown path headed to a destination that has yet to be revealed.
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