Most summer movies are targeted to young audiences who are out of school, looking for something to do with their free time. So if the latest superheroes action movie isn’t exactly your cup of tea, it’s good to know that there are at least a few films targeted to “more mature” audiences.
At a matinee this Memorial Day, a group of gray-haired patrons packed a theater showing “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.” In this entertaining movie, six British men and women approaching retirement, see a brochure for a beautiful, reasonably priced hotel in India. Ready to try something different and exotic, these people take a plane to India. The hotel, in serious disrepair, leaves much to be desired. Managing the hotel is Sonny (Dev Patel, from “Slumdog Millionaire”) who is young, energetic, and eager to please. However, his management skills are sadly lacking. In addition, Sonny’s mother is there to constantly remind him of his failures, and thwart his romantic interests.
Marigold Hotel feels like a throwback to movies of the ’80s and ’90s in which British people go abroad to scenic countries to find love and fulfillment (e.g. “A Room with a View,” “Enchanted April.”) So there’s something familiar about this movie. We can guess that the retirees will, in some way, find what they’re looking for, despite the crumbling hotel. Romance is still possible for these seniors. There’s even hope for conversion for the worst curmudgeons along the way.
The movie is helped tremendously by its great cast of comic actors. Judi Dench plays Evelyn, a recently widow, still grieving the loss of her husband. Maggie Smith is Muriel, a bitter woman needing hip surgery. I don’t think there is a better comic actress anywhere than Maggie Smith. Tom Wilkinson is Graham, with a history in India, trying to find a lover he hasn’t seen in decades.
Director John Madden (“Shakespeare in Love”) does a good job balancing comedy and drama. He also balances the exotic color and allure of India with the rundown hotel, crowds, noise and traffic. It’s a shock to the system of the six retirees. Some deal with it better than others. However, all are changed by their experience in this very different country.
If your hair has at least a little gray in it, and you like great British actors in exotic locations, “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” is for you. It’s a great way to spend a couple of hours on a hot summer afternoon.
Tom Condon, OP