I admit that I loved The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel before I watched it. The preview brought me to tears and the cast had me in awe. I am happy to state that it lived up to my expectations; it made me laugh, cry, and at the end left me feeling joyful and hopeful. It is the type of film that makes you feel good and better off having watched it if you pay attention to the underlying lessons.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel follows a group of retirees who, for varying reasons, decide to pack up their lives and move to a retirement hotel in India. Evelyn (Judi Dench) is recently widowed and is burdened with massive debt. This forces her to sell her home, leaving her limited options including moving in with her son. She has never been on her own or done anything without her husband and rather then do what would be expected of her, she decides to take a chance and try something new. Muriel (Maggie Smith) needs hip-replacement surgery and due to how quickly she needs it, along with her limited means, the doctor suggests a cheaper and quicker pilot program being offered in India. It is apparent that she is alone in the world, and whatever has happened in her past has left her hostile and antagonistic. She is racist and not at all open to the possibilities awaiting her.
Graham (Tom Wilkinson) is a well-respected high court judge who abruptly retires to return to India where he lived many years earlier. Doug (Bill Nighy) and Jean (Penelope Wilton) have lost the majority of their savings by investing in their daughter’s start-up business. They are forced to go a different route with their retirement in hopes of experiencing a new culture on limited means while waiting to get their money back from their daughter. Jean is used to a certain lifestyle and her snobbery is apparent from the start. Doug tries to pacify her every want and desire while constantly apologizing for anything and everything.
Madge (Celia Imrie) has been living with her son caring for her grandchildren. Rather than accept her situation, she opts to search for a new husband in new lands. Norman (Ronald Pickup) is looking for love in all of the wrong places and with women of a much younger age. Not having any luck, he seeks to regain his youth.
When they all finally arrive, each reacts very differently to the new environment. Some take to it right away and enjoy the new sights, sounds, smells, and culture. Other resist it and find it detestable. The hotel also provides a challenge: it is not at all what was advertised. Instead of being the lavish, it is extremely dilapidated. Sonny (Dev Patel) inherited the hotel from his father and is determined to return it to its previous glory. He manages to convince everyone to stay and give it a chance. While being younger and at a different stage in life, he has struggles of his own as he tries to save the hotel. What transpires from here results in differing adventures for each person, along the way they all learn valuable lessons to transform the rest of their lives.
The DVD has very little extras but for this type of film, nothing is really needed to enhance the enjoyment or to provide a deeper level of understanding. “Behind the Story: Lights, Colors and Smiles” is a brief featurette on the making of the film including interviews with the cast and crew, at under three minutes there isn’t much provided. “Casting” offers additional interviews and focuses on the amazing ensemble cast but again with only being a little over three minutes it only touches the surface. The theatrical trailer and previews of upcoming films to be released on DVD are also provided.
There are many wonderful aspects that make The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel so successful. First and foremost is the charming cast. Each one brings a different perspective to what is supposed to be the golden years of life. They are all on a different path but still arrive at the same place. Each character has a different reaction to what life has given them and to the adventure presented. No matter which character is on the screen, something is to be learned. Dench’s character acts as the narrator and so many of the statements made during the narration are words to live by. One such statement being “life is what you bring to it.” How often do we need to be reminded of that? The setting is a character all its own, the beauty and wonder of India comes shinning through and presents a completely different way of life. There is nothing overly shocking that transpires because that isn’t what this film is about. It is an opportunity to think about life and ponder what it can be. Are you making the most of it, are you embracing all that it has to offer, or could you be doing more? The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel will be what you bring to it. Be open and willing to listen and perhaps you can vicariously benefit from the journey.