by Ruth Thomson
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel follows the escapades of a group of elderly Brits who end up residing in what they expect to be a luxury retirement resort in Jaipur, but turns out to be a run down uninspiring hotel.
The film begins promisingly, introducing us to the aging but glossy ensemble cast – the best of British thespdom: Dame Judi, cropped and adorable as ever plays the gentle Evelyn who’s mourning her husband whilst excitedly discovering the internet, Dame Maggie is the bitter, cantankerous and ever so amusingly racist Muriel – not even her jolly nurse Liza Tarbuck can cheer her up. As Douglas and Jean, Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilton are stuck in a dismal marriage facing the prospect of a poverty stricken retiral, their feckless daughter having blown their savings on a start up that didn’t start up. Celia Imrie and Ronald Pickup are the randy ones of the group – both still up for it despite their advancing years, whilst most enigmatic of all is the mighty Tom Wilkinson as a high court judge who tosses of his robes mid work do in search of a more satisfying (ie foreign) existence. Quite how they all independently come to the decision to voyage to Jaipur is neatly glossed over – all of a sudden, five minutes in, there they all are at the airport, and so it begins.
The various escapades are a mix of amusing and predictable – whilst some of the gang are invigorated and entranced by the sights and sounds of their new city, others refuse to chillax, and grudgingly cling on to their packets of hobnobs whilst grumbling about home and freaking out about how many Indians there are everywhere. Tom Wilkinson has the only strong narrative – he’s secretly returned to his childhood home to find a young male lover he left decades earlier, whilst Penelope Wilton gets the rawest deal of all, being grim faced to the bitter end and having the ultimate double humiliation of unwittingly declaring her love to a gay man (d’oh!) whilst watching her brow beaten husband fall for 77 year old Judi Dench.
Despite the many clichés and fairly striking lack of plot, there are definitely worse ways to spend a couple of hours: the performances are all as strong as you’d expect and there are no weak links – though Dev Patel of Slumdog Millionaire fame has a lot to live up to as the hapless hotel owner. As much as it’s always a pleasure to see DJD shimmying around in _ length linen tunic and trouser combos – in all loose lips likelihood this is one for your mum, or for those of you who secretly find Bill Nighy really attractive. Like me.