Don’t wait until you are in your retirement years to see this film. It is funny, witty, and poignant and just happens to be about British retirees down on their luck looking to India to cheaply outsource their golden years.
The retirees travel to the ancient city of Jaipur, India to the charming though dilapidated Best Exotic Marigold Hotel – where the phones don’t work, taps drip all night, and spicy curries are served under the guise of roast goat dinners.
The film is a pared down version of the book “These Foolish Things” by Deborah Moggach, and gives less attention to the lives of the residents prior to their coming to India. Jaipur has replaced the high tech city of Bangalore and troublesome family members are not dealt with at all
The cast is the best of British acting royalty. Dames Judi Dench and Maggie Smith play bewildered older women whose lives have left them short of money and options. They rise to the challenge of living in India, “Like Darwin’s finches, we are slowly starting to adapt.” Tom Wilkinson is a retired High Court Judge with a secret past and childhood origins in India.
Bill Nighy steps out of his usual role as the boozy, sleazy older man and instead plays a longsuffering, loyal husband in a marriage that has outrun itself, with a wife who despises India and refuses to accept its quixotic mix of beauty and poverty.
Dev Patel (Slumdog Millionaire) plays the optimistic charmer managing the Marigold – brow beaten by his mother and torn between making a traditional marriage and a love-match. Sonny has endearingly upbeat solutions to all the problems the Marigold throws at him. “Everything will be all right in the end. So if it is not all right, then it is not yet the end.”
Academy Award nominee Thomas Newman is responsible for a gorgeous soundtrack which is a mix of East meets West using traditional Indian instruments. It evokes the beauty, chaos and timelessness of India. The films cinematography colourfully illustrates the vividness of street life in India – noisy, smelly, exotic and teeming with humanity.
Ultimately the film is fun and uplifting. The hotel guests go to the Marigold to retire cheaply while creating a minimum of fuss but discover that life can never be boring in India and that if you are open to it life will continue to surprise and delight. See the trailer here