Maybe it seems silly to review this movie now, with the sequel due for release in a few days. It’s a new movie to me, though, since it came out while I lived in Panama.
Featuring an amazingly all-star cast, the movie is based on the idea of outsourcing retirement overseas, specifically from the UK to India.
As the movie opens, we meet seven wildly different British retirees. Evelyn (Judi Dench) has just lost her husband and finds herself loaded with debt she didn’t know about. Douglas (Bill Nighy) and Jean (Penelope Wilton) need to downsize because of investment losses. Graham (Tom Wilkinson) is a high court judge who’s fed up and announces his retirement as he leaves the retirement party of a colleague. Muriel (Maggie Smith) is an angry, raging xenophobe who needs a hip replacement but doesn’t want a non-English doctor to touch her. Norman (Ronald Pickup) and Madge (Celia Imrie) are two single adults looking for romance.
They come from different backgrounds, different walks of life, and only one of them has ever been to India before. One by one, they’re enticed to retire overseas — to spend their sunset years at The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the Elderly and Beautiful in Jaipur, India.
The hotel itself is beautiful, with the sort of run-down beauty of an aging supermodel. The bones are good, but there are wrinkles and weaknesses. Sonny, the manager (Dev Patel), is trying to keep the hotel, which has been in his family for generations, against high odds.
Shortly after arrival, Jean demands a transfer to “the other hotel — the one in the brochure.”
There’s dirt and dust everywhere, and the food sends all the new guests rushing to the bathroom. Evelyn acts as periodic narrator, as she updates her blog. She notes that the biggest adjustments are to the crowds and the colors — both are intense.
Even with her low-cost Indian retirement, though, Evelyn can’t make ends meet and finds a job as a sort of cultural adviser in a call center, where she meets Sonny’s girlfriend, Sunaina (Tena Desai).
Jean detests India and everything about it, and refuses to go out into the city. Douglas, though, finds interesting sights to see and things to do.
Muriel has her hip replacement, and during her recovery gets a lesson in cultural differences — and kindness — from the young woman hired to take care of her.
We learn that Graham grew up in India, and he reconnects with an important friend from his youth.
Norman finds a girlfriend, while Madge worries that she’s “past it.”
Then everything starts to unravel. Sonny’s mother shows up unexpectedly and tries to sell the hotel. Muriel takes an unexpected interest in helping Sonny, whose romance with Sunaina is suffering. Jean and Douglas’ investment suddenly pays off, and she flies back to England by herself, telling him they both deserve better than the sour relationship that’s been held together only by his loyalty.
Everything comes right in the end, though. As Sonny says repeatedly, “If it’s not all right, it’s not the end.”
What could have been a dark and preachy film with a lesser cast, or in different hands (John Madden directed), becomes a delightful look at the very real problems of the elderly today, and at humorous and creative solutions.
Definitely worth watching. Here’s the official trailer to whet your appetite!
Or Buy the DVD from Amazon [aff]