Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a meandering drama of twilight soul rediscovery that is every bit as cozy, soothing and quintessentially English as a cup of milky tea or a pint of warm lager. It's aimed squarely at the eager crowd of film-going pensioners that the biz so often disregards, and it offers helpings of warm, brothy comfort and nostalgia, though its setting invokes the U.K.'s current national dish: chicken tikka masala.
Seven unrelated seniors are enticed to spend their golden years in Jaipur, India, lured by a retirement hotel brochure that overpromises mystery, rustic charm and enchanting exotica, but the actual dump sports cracked paint, grime, broken appliances and the occasional flock of migrating pigeons. The joint is run by a hypercaffeinated local named Sonny (Dev Patel), an ambitious screw-up desperate to prove himself both to the girl he wants to marry, and to the family that has other plans for him. Sonny's troubles are one of the myriad subplots on display here, as all of the elders are muddling through their own issues, including loneliness, depression, home sickness, lost loves and chemically enhanced horniness.
The storylines are cliché-riddled filler for the main course of seeing an ensemble of high-quality old pros bounce off each other in amusing ways. The ever-able Tom Wilkinson serves as the group's moral compass, Bill Nighy as the eternally cool wit, and Judi Dench as the ethereal, spiritual center. The venerable Maggie Smith has a blast being the bigoted old coot who thinks the Raj never ended, and smuggles packets of Hobnobs in her purse because she can't bear to leave behind the comforts of home.
Director John Madden is known for upper-class mainstream fare, such as Shakespeare in Love, and for sappy dreck like Captain Corelli's Mandolin. This film falls somewhere in the middle, as the cast is far superior to the spicy curry bathroom jokes they must put up with. If this crew somehow doesn't easily charm you, keep the film's mantra in mind: "Everything will be alright in the end. And if it is not alright, it is not yet the end." But trust me, the credits will eventually roll.