"Elderly, Yes – Beautiful Is Another Story"
What You Need To Know:
THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL is often funny, in a wry British style. It also addresses some of the problems old age brings, without becoming too morose. The talented cast helps. However, the worldview is mostly secular and humanist, despite India’s rich religious history. Even Hinduism is barely acknowledged, much less Christianity. Because of this and some sexual and homosexual content, MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution for THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL.
(HH, Cap, Ro, B, Pa, FR, HoHo, L, V, SS, N, A, DD, MM) Strong humanist worldview with some capitalist content regarding owner of dilapidated hotel who has rich dreams, some Romantic and moral elements, brief depiction of a Hindu funeral in India, and strong overt homosexual content with two men embracing in one scene; three obscenities (including one “f” word) and use of the term “bloody,” plus toilet humor when hotel guests sickened by Indian food run repeatedly to bathroom; a death due to a heart attack; strong and light sexual content includes two homosexual men shown embracing, one of seven major characters thinks he’s homosexual, attempted fornication when woman jumps into bed with boyfriend but it’s not him, man takes Viagra, brief crude dialogue and innuendo; no explicit nudity but brief rear male nudity in shower and woman undresses completely and jumps into a bed expecting to surprise her boyfriend but nothing explicit shown; some drinking; some smoking and an implied marijuana reference in passing to “apple tobacco”; and, racist comments, moral relativism, bad role models, dysfunctional married couple.
Growing old is common to us all. How we deal with aging is another story, however. In the case of THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL, the example set by this movie’s motley group of resettled seniors in India regrettably leaves quite a bit to be desired.
As pictured, and especially as photographically enhanced in its slick brochures, “the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the Elderly and Beautiful” happens to fall a bit short of the mark. It’s a rundown crumbling old hotel near the center of colorful Jaipur, India. Nevertheless, it’s been fertile ground for the imagination of seven golden agers from England who find themselves slowly drowning in a morass of disappointments, dwindling funds, restlessness, frustrations, medical problems, and assorted broken dreams. For one particular reason or another, each of them makes the fateful decision to embark on the adventure of their lives by relocating to the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, and take another stab at reaching that elusive state of mind called happiness. What they don’t know is that the inviting beautiful hotel portrayed in the brochures has barely kept from being torn down as an eyesore. The only person preventing that demise is the hotel’s overly optimistic owner, Sonny (Dev Patel). Sonny cheerfully brushes off every obstacle in his path by saying, “Everything always works out in the end, and if doesn’t, then it cannot be the end yet.”
Now, the venerable guests that Sonny had been waiting so long for to launch the Marigold Hotel into greatness have arrived, and he will need to put every bit of his bubbly charm and exuberant rapid-fire prose into overdrive to keep them from running for the exits the next day. That won’t hard to do because they are a tough bunch, probably since there’s not much more for this bunch to lose. So, it will take a lot more than the grime, bugs, heat, noise, and spicy diarrhea-inducing curry cuisine to discourage them from hanging in there, until everything, as Sonny hopes, works out in the end.
Although not rip-roaring comedy, THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL manages to be constantly funny, in a wry British style. It also addresses some of the problems that come along with old age, without becoming too morose.
A cast of veterans helps. Evelyn (Judy Dench) is the frustrated recent widower who wants to get away from it all. Muriel (Maggie Smith) is the crusty bitter housekeeper who, in perhaps an unwanted political slip by the writers, isn’t willing to wait six months for a hip replacement under Britain’s socialized healthcare systems. So, she decides to have it done in India, despite her initial open bigotry for anybody who’s not white. Graham (Tom Wilkinson) is a melancholic homosexual judge returning to a place and time that doesn’t exist anymore. Douglas (Bill Nighy) and Jean (Penelope Wilton) are a married couple in conflict. Rounding out the group are lonesome souls Norman (Ronald Pickup) and Madge (Celia Imrie). Norman blissfully feeds his lecherous side with the Kama Sutra, while Madge joins a very expensive local social club to meet eligible, and prosperous, bachelors.
Dev Patel of SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE fame, who plays Sonny, does a good job here again. His energy, charm, and wit moves the movie along quite well as he tries to keep his dreams of a hotel empire alive. Sonny also struggles to fully commit to his beautiful girlfriend, Sunaina (played by Tena Desae), despite opposition from both their families. Like Dev, Tena is enjoyable, but her performance is marred by one gratuitous scene where she slips into Sonny’s bed to surprise him in his sleep.
As the plot unfolds, viewers are treated to a barrage of funny and not so funny one liners, assorted pearls of wisdom, and occasional shallow platitudes. The movie also transports viewers to India, and Jaipur in particular. This in itself might be a pretty good reason for seeing the movie in the first place. Sadly, for the old folks in the movie, it’s very hard to change their spots after they’ve worn them for a lifetime. The change of venue, even if it is the Exotic Marigold Hotel in beautiful Jaipur, may not be quite enough. Some do try, others don’t try at all, yet others are just as happy to motor on the way they have always been until the end.
It’s in the way that the characters deal with their “issues,” as well as each other and their new surroundings, that gives the movie its more poignant moments. However, not a single character in the entire movie represents the Christian faith in any significant way. In fact, despite the rich religious history of India, not even Hinduism itself gets much more than a passing acknowledgement. Because of the movie’s humanist worldview, its colors are not as bright, its goals not as lofty, its conflicts not as interesting, its elderly characters not quite that beautiful, as they could have been. Consequently, THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL isn’t as enjoyable, enlightening, or fulfilling, as it should be. It’s more like the reality the characters encounter, not the shiny brochures that lured them there.
MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution for THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL for some sexual content, homosexual references, and humanist worldview. There’s very little foul language, but there is one “f” word.