The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (review)

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The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Judi Dench yellow light

Isn’t it awful how we treat elderly people in the West? We warehouse them and demean them by calling them “dear” and otherwise ignore them while we wait for them to die. Let’s encourage more of them to go East — as in this kooky-cutesy dramedy — where they can be treated poorly in all new and exotic ways. That guy from Slumdog Millionaire (Dev Patel: The Last Airbender) lures a gaggle of desperate pensioners from England, escaping warehousing and being called “dear,” to his luxury retirement resort in India, where they can live high on the hog for cheap. Ha ha! Once the gang arrives, they discover the place is a ramshackle disaster: the phones don’t work, the pipes leak, and the place is covered in dust and infested with birds, probably because there are no doors anywhere. But it looked so lovely in the brochure! Fortunately for the guy from Slumdog, and for the demands of kooky-cutesy dramedy, everybody is too broke to go home, so they’re stuck. It’s like a Breakfast Club of oldsters: there’s the racist one, the horny one, the naive one, etc, etc. Some of it works: Tom Wilkinson’s (Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol) story, of a man who grew up in India and has been living with a secret of that past, is the most affecting; Judi Dench’s (Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides) widow learning how to live life on her own is a close second. There’s also the couple of Bill Nighy (Arthur Christmas) and Penelope Wilton (Doctor Who) who are drifting apart; Maggie Smith (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2), who came to India for a surgery she would have had to wait for in England and hates being in a country where she can’t pronounce the food; and Celia Imrie (Nanny McPhee) and Ronald Pickup (Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time), who each get to be the horny one. The script — by Ol Parker (Imagine Me and You), based on the novel by Deborah Moggach [Amazon U.S.] [Amazon Canada] [Amazon U.K.] — is the height of clichéd predictability, and director John Madden (Shakespeare in Love) makes a visual mess of things in places. Still, Wilkinson, Dench, and Nighy are a pleasure to watch, always, and especially so in the occasional moments they have together here.

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