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Old 5th Mar 2012, 12:29   #1
ono no komachi
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Default The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Seven pensioners of varying ages, including a former high court judge (Tom Wilkinson), a couple of retired civil servants (Penelope Wilton and Bill Nighy), a racist old battleaxe (Maggie Smith), a recently widowed grandmother (Judi Dench) and two singletons looking for relationships (Celia Imrie and Ronald Pickup) decide for various arbitrary reasons to take up residence in the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the Elderly and Beautiful, in Jaipur. With one exception, none of them has experience of India. The exception is the judge, who spent most of his childhood in India and yearns to reacquaint himself with a dearly loved childhood companion.

So far, so perilously close to Richard Curtis territory. I began to worry I’d be deeply unimpressed by this film as I sat po-faced while Maggie Smith’s character came out with dreadfully racist statements and other segments of the audience around me tittered uneasily. (I did however smile as her doctor told her she’d be on a six-month waiting list and she replied, “I can’t possibly plan that far ahead. I don’t even buy green bananas.”)

They eventually all arrive at a dusty, ramshackle if evidently formerly glorious building presided over by an insanely optimistic manager played by Dev Patel (“Everything will be all right in the end. If it is not all right, then it is not the end.”) and proceed to lay out their various characters before us: some likeable, some less so (Penelope Wilton must have drawn the short straw in the casting session, “I want to stay in the other hotel. The one in the brochure.”)

There are some predictable plot developments, and I thought it was a shame that the most interesting sub-plot (that of Tom Wilkinson’s character) is however somewhat curtailed and left me wondering what would have happened if things had taken a different turn, requiring a bit more examination of the characters’ reactions and personalities. I found the plotline which has Judi Dench’s character ‘educate’ call centre staff in how to converse with older people a bit patronising and unnecessary.

The small successes of this film rest mostly with the really very classy cast. It was actually quite refreshing to see Dame Maggie playing against type. Bill Nighy is adorable, making the viewer wonder why his wife (Penelope Wilton) is so embittered, and I guess it’s a plus point is that we don’t get their entire backstory, just hints of past troubles. (Although I did wonder if there was a hint of anxiety disorder or similar on her part which might have been interesting to explore.) Dev Patel manages to engage in a role which in less skillful hands could have been terribly one-note.

My companion enjoyed the film, and I found it an undemanding, reasonably entertaining couple of hours. Not steeped in sheer brilliance, but it avoided a lot of potential pitfalls, whilst perhaps stumbling a little towards one or two.

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