British people are funny. Especially old British people. And especially old British people taken out of their comfort zone and inserted into one of the most hectic countries in the world: India. In The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, Penelope Wilton, Maggie Smith and Dev Patel star in the surprisingly heartwarming tale about a group of retirees who find themselves in a less-than-luxurious but oddly charming hotel.
Directed by John Madden (Shakespeare in Love, The Debt), The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is amusing, funny and at times poignant. The film adequately captures the sense of culture shock, but more importantly paints an ensemble of strong, interesting and well defined characters.
Judi Dench and Maggie Smith steal the show amongst the senior cast, Dench playing a first-time traveler and widow, Smith a wheelchair bound woman who mainly sticks to herself. The rest of the older cast turns in fine performances as well.
Dev Patel, who hasn't done anything of note since starring in the Oscar-winning Slumdog Millionaire back in 2008, is the overall standout, however. While his performance hedges on over-the-top at times, his energetic, optimistic and frenetic character contrasts perfectly against the more subdued "old British people" storylines.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is one of those films that, due to its subdued nature, will largely be forgotten over time. It doesn't deserve such a fate. What appears to be a film geared solely to senior audiences is so much more, a humorous, lively drama that is at its worse a leisurely trip and at best a surprisingly colorful journey.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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