The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,
directed by John Madden
(20th Century Fox, 2012)

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel wears its genteel lessons, like its heart, on its sleeve. There's nothing about it that's hard at all. The theme, like the pacing, is very gentle and handles its revelations and characters with sweet, respectful reserve.

Late blooming evolution is the heart of this story. Seven pensioner Brits decide to become ex-pats and head for a hotel in India that sounds like the answer to their prayers. Refugees of one kind or another from lives that have become too harsh or too empty, they arrive to find, no surprise, that the place is a fixer-upper. A trace of its former glory is still evident, though, as a rather obvious metaphor for the ex-pats feeling their age.

The predictable, conventional fare is blended quite beautifully with exotic locations that don't hide the country's grinding poverty and difficult caste system. Definitely comfort food filmmaking at its best, featuring the cream of the silver-crowned British acting crop, this lovely Eat-Pray-Love-style movie is about second chances, whether it's finding love, inspiration or just figuring out one's place in the universe. The predictable bits grow soggy and weigh the plot down with its sitcomish moments, but it's still a touchingly funny movie. I have a beef or two with the way it refuses to dwell on the real problems of old age, such as dwindling funds and being taken advantage of by schemers, as well as the way it sort of glosses over the issues of loneliness, by having all these issues wrapped up in a gentle, warm, fuzzy cloud of resolution. The professionalism of the actors and the humanity of the subject matter do more than make up for the shallower areas, giving weight to its sentiment and making sure that, as a diversion, it remains a pleasant one.

review by
Mary Harvey

9 May 2015

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