Saturday, March 31, 2012

The Case for the Last of the Summer Marigolds

On paper, it looks like a dream movie.  Take a whole bunch of first class British thespians, including Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Peter O'Toole, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy and Dev Patel.  Then give them a script about a bunch of stereotypical stuffy Brits abroad.  And then put them all in one of the most incredibly vibrant and most extreme places on the planet: India. 

And what result did they get?  Gold.  Marigolds, in fact.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a film that my Mum recommended to me, one she saw with a whole gaggle of her silver haired church companions, and they all raved about it.  And I think that sums up the type of movie, and experience, that The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel ends up as.


There is a lot of humour, quite a bit related to relations in the elderly; there are problems coming to grips with a completely different culture; there is a slightly confusing and tonally inconsistent attempt at coming to grips witht the caste system; there are deep hurts that need to be exposed and resolved; and there is the sheer joy and energy of India every time the actors leave the confines of the hotel and head out into the great chaos in the neighbouring streets (even if they are closed sets).

It's a film that it is very hard to be offended by, unless you find the notion the elderly getting it off every so often repellent.  Dev Patel is hilariously barmy as the gangly nervous young man trying to make a successful retirement village out of his father's old hotel.  Meanwhile, the white cast make the most of the stereotypes they are given, with Judi Dench given the most introspective and most to do as the "narrator". 

I enjoyed myself immensely, and even laughed at some of the amusing bits, though there were some members of the audience whom I thought might require medical assistance afterwards, considering how strongly they reacted to some of even the mildest doses of humour.  Again, it is hard to be too offended by any of it, except for the parts are meant to be offensive. 

One thing struck me watching the film: It's odd how one almost expects the most liberal of attitudes from the older generation.  Basically, it appears that almost any lifestyle lived in a quiet English way is perfectly fine for the elderly, and while different cultures provide a bit of discomfort for a while, this can be overcome by quasi-complete immersion.  But "foreign" culture at home... well, that is a bit harder to swallow.

Verdict: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel provides no surprises, but a lot of chuckles.  It is a completely pleasant couple of hours with some thoroughly wonderful actors having a ball in one of the most beautiful, bewildering and sometimes terrifying places on the planet.  It almost made me want to go to India.  Almost.  Perhaps when I am nearer retirement...  8 Indian-hot curries out of 10.

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