Some movies really just play it safe. “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” is one of those movies, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Instead of taking a concept that could have had much more striking thematic contrast and various emotional peaks, this movie plays out modestly and is simple at the core to make it a much more easy going film experience. When crowd pleaser films like this are released, it is hard to really criticize them for the amount of romanticism and glossing over of real life experiences. So unless you’re expecting some sort of strong, character driven drama with some great laugh out lout moments, you’ll probably end up enjoying “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” as much as I did.
The plot here is simple: a group of various elderly folks living in the UK head to a hotel in India for various reasons, some more serious than others (medical or personal reasons). This film is the chronicle of their experiences in India and we get to see these old folks grow and change quite a bit as the movie goes along. There is also a subplot of the hotel itself which is facing economic and cultural hardships as the young owner (Dev Patel) struggles to keep the place alive. The acting here is quite excellent, although no performances really stick out (Bill Nighy being the best). All of these actors are seasoned veterans so it is not surprising that it is a real pleasure to watch them interact. The only performance I thought was distracting was Dev Patel (whose call to fame is the highly over-awarded “Slumdog Millionaire”). His bit is acting like he’s hopped up on caffeine in every scene. He runs around flailing his arms and spewing overly idealistic nonsense that may be inspiring, but never really amounts to anything. I feel as if the elderly characters are rolling their eyes at him in every scene.
I wish that this film took a bit more time examining these westerner’s interactions with the local Indian culture. There is a bit of culture shock, particularly with Bill Nighy’s wife, who is afraid to even leave her room, and also Maggie Smith’s character, who begins the film as a spiteful racist and is forced to learn tolerance as she interacts with the Indians. That is the biggest flaw with this entire picture, it doesn’t strive to do anything other than put a smile on your face. None of the characters go through anything that feels like it would be a genuinely life altering experience (except perhaps Tom Wilkinson’s character). However, the fact that many of them are very old suggests that they do not have the time to wait for something to happen so they are doing what they can with the time they have left. Me, being a youngster, couldn’t relate to a lot of these concepts and feel as if this movie doesn’t take any risks or do anything to really get me to feel for the characters or understand why this experience in India is such a big deal. Only Tom Wilkinson’s character has any real weight.
Having said all of that, this movie is not hard to watch and is filled with humor. As previously stated, watching these actors work together is a treat and there are many moments where you will laugh or even just smile because of the fun situations. Most of the humor arises when there are cultural mix ups between the western individuals and Indian culture. There is an undoubtable amount of heart to “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” and many people won’t be able to help feeling emotional during certain moments. Overall, this is a heartwarming and humor-filled film that will most likely appeal to an older audience. Either way, I recommend seeing this movie especially when you’re in the mood for something a bit more lightweight.