If I had to describe the film The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel in one work it would be charming. It is the story of seven elderly British men and women who, for different reasons, decide to retire to a hotel in India. Upon arrival, they realize that the hotel’s owner may have over exaggerated the quality of the hotel. The film chronicles the hotel’s new residents’ experiences coping with their old age while acclimating to a new country and a new living situation that is slightly more exotic than they expected. I’d like to take a moment to introduce you to the residents.
• The Manager: Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel) Desperately trying to keep the failing hotel alive after his father, who was unable to make the hotel a success, left the building to him and his brothers. His brothers want no part in the business and have traveled elsewhere to make their fortunes. Fighting against his mother’s traditional Indian ideas, Sonny is trying to keep his mother from selling the hotel as well as trying to avoid an arranged marriage so he can marry the woman that he loves. Sonny represents Change and Optimism.
• The Recently Widowed: Evelyn Greenslade (Judi Dench) After her husband of many years passed away and left her in massive debt, Evelyn found that she did not have the money to support herself. Always living with her husband and doing nothing out of the ordinary, Evelyn decides to travel to India as the adventure of a lifetime. Obtaining her first real job and supporting herself, Evelyn sets up a new life in India. Upon learning from her new life and experiences, Evelyn realizes that while she put all her faith and trust into her husband, he put none of the same into her. Narrating the film through her blog, Evelyn learns not only how to live and to be trusted by others but she also manages to find second love in India. Evelyn represents Life and Growth.
• The Unhappy Couple: Douglas and Jean Ainslie (Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilton) Trapped in an unhappy marriage and an unhappy life, Douglas has not managed to save up enough money for Jean to retire them to a “nice enough” retirement home. Upon seeing the less than truthful brochures, Jean becomes excited about India but hates it when she arrives. Douglas tries to make the best of the situation and ends up, much like Evelyn, how to truly live in India. As the two drift further and further into unhappiness, both set their sights on new significant others (Douglas’ being Evelyn) and are forced to confront the state of their relationship. Throughout the film Douglas, like Evelyn, seems to represent Life as well as Dedication while Jean represents Acceptance.
• The Off the Straight and Narrow: Graham Dashwood (Tom Wilkinson) Quitting his job on what seems to be a whim in the opening of the film. Of all the characters, we find out the Graham is the only person actually returning to India. Returning to the world where he grew up, we eventually find Graham is gay and then he has returned to find an lover from long ago whom he fears he has scorned. While his entire story represents a strong Dedication, Graham also represents Risk.
• The Cougar: Madge Hardcastle (Celia Imrie) Not ready to be done with men, Madge spends the majority of her time in India trying to find a suitable rich gentlemen with which she can settle down. Though hilariously amusing and charming, Madge hits speed bumps left and right until she doubts that she will ever be able to find another man. India, and the people there, however quickly teach her to never give up and help Madge to continue to represent Hope.
• The Playboy: Norman Cousins (Ronald Pickup) A very similar character to Madge, Norman is constantly on the prowl, searching for suitable women to spend a night and the rest of his life with. Norman, at his core, is just a lonely guy that is not ready to give up on a future with a relationship. With the help of Madge, Norman is able to find a special someone, proving that his character represents the idea of Youth (not in the literal sense). Just because someone has gotten on in years does not mean they are old at heart. Youth is a state of mind, the state of mind Norman lives in.
• The Broken Spirited: Muriel Donnelly (Maggie Smith) A racist bitter old woman, Muriel is forced to travel to India to receive a hip replacement. Forced into a trial by fire situation, we watch as Muriel is forced to interact with the people she had always avoided due to her racist thoughts. As she grows from the experiences she has feared most, we learn that Muriel desperately needs to be needed. Her past career was a housekeep for a family that, after years of service, traded her in for a younger model leaving Muriel with nothing to live for. Though the most difficult character to find redemption in at the start of the film, Muriel becomes the character that I feel the worst for and end up liking the best. Representing Understanding and the simple, human need of Being Needed, Muriel is the character that changes the most, in the process becoming the only person that can save the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
When I went to see this film in theaters, I really had no idea what it was about and I have to say I was amazing. Funny, charming, heartbreaking and satisfying all at once, this film is a must see. With a cast of brilliant British actors and actresses, the acting is outstanding and the stories are well developed and compelling. I give the film an 8.5 out of 10 and urge you to go and see it.