The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (3 out of 5 Stars)
Directed by John Madden (Shakespeare in Love, Proof, The Debt)
Written by Ol Parker (Imagine Me & You)
Starring : Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Dev Patel, and Maggie Smith
Imagine a place in beautiful India where the elderly can go to find peace and relaxation for the remainder of their lives. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is far from the luxury in its advertisement. The story centers on a group of elderly individuals who is looking to escape/leave behind some of the baggage they have unintentionally accumulated at the end of their lives.
Evelyn's (Dench) husband kept secrets about their financial status leaving her strapped. Doug Ainslee (Nighy) and his wife Jean Ainslee (Penelope Wilton) have invested poorly in their daughters internet company. Madge (Celia Imrie) has grown tired of living off her children and wants another rich husband. Graham (Wilkinson) lived in India many years ago and has returned to find a long lost love and the passion India brought to his life. Norman (Roman Pickup) wants youthful passion. Murial (Smith) needs a hip replacement, and India provides her with the quickest opportunity to get the surgery. Together this group along with the hotels manager Sonny (Patel) come together and find peace as they find their place in this foreign country at their age.
John Madden directs this all star cast, and creates a beautifully shot film full of great imagery, which helps speak the films central story. The story is more about exploring the unknown elements of this foreign environment, and how stepping outside of your comfort zone forces a person to grow and develop at any age. Parker's script aides in this process and creates some beautifully heartfelt stories, with some witty humorous moments. The script also creates some problems for the film by focusing on too many characters and stories, which sometimes appears daunting for Parker to tackle. With too many characters the film sometimes loses focus and over extends your presence as a guest into this dilapidated hotel.
Even though the script is a bit long, the performances of a few actors bring back the heart and character of this story. The standouts were Dench, Wilkinson, and Smith. Dench is the narrator of the groups evolution and journey; she finds her place realizing she tackle working, loving, and finding the core of what it means to grow, and find ones self for the first time in her life. Wilkinson acting is almost effortless,but he always challenges himself to get to the depth of a character. As Graham Wilkinson battles his own fears and trepidation by returning to a country and a former lover whom he feels he has wronged, but on this journey he finally comes to peace with himself. Yet within most films Maggie Smith is the scene-stealer; she is funny, touching, and shows so much depth in a woman who fears change the most.
The film is is entertaining, but at the end feels like you checked out too late, and Madden and Parker drown the message with sap. The film feels prolonged and even though there are several enjoyable performances, and we get to see the beauty of India, the story suffers from a lack of focus.