This ‘Hotel’ Humbles

Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures

Take all the famous British actors over 60 years of age, excluding Helen Mirren and Michael Caine and a not-so-luxurious hotel in India, and you will be left with a lot of confused expressions.

“The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” charms its way into the hearts of our grandparents and even filters down to our technological generation. Behind the backlit screens and publicized social lives, we secretly yearn for culture. What better to immerse us in culture than the elderly warming up to exotic India?

The film, written by Ol Parker and based on the novel “These Foolish Things” by Deborah Moggach, opens with small scenes jumping from one retiree’s story to the next.

Evelyn Greenslade (Judi Dench) tries to learn her way around a computer and copes with her husband’s recent death and the debt and doubt he left her with.

Muriel Donnelly (Maggie Smith), a suspicious racist trapped by her own discrimination, is being sent to India for hip-replacement surgery.

Graham Dashwood (Tom Wilkinson) has an epiphany during a business gathering. He knows it is time for him to go back to India.

Douglas (Bill Nighy) and Jean Ainslie (Penelope Wilton) put their trust and their retirement funds into the hands of the technology website boom and are still waiting for the proceeds. They find The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel as an alternative to sterile, beige bungalow retirement living.

Expectations leave a couple of the travelers in distress when the “best” hotel looks more like a glorified old ruin.

The ambitious hotel manager Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel) attempts to make the hesitant guests feel at home in the fixer-upper hotel. It is his dream to build up this hotel from its ruined state and create a profitable business off of the “elderly and beautiful.”

India city life, with bustling markets and zooming tut-tuts, is the backdrop to shifting relationships and inspirational journeys that each British retiree takes. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, however, remains the most emotional location of the film, revealing truths, offering strength and teaching the retirees how to appreciate life.

The commotion of the city’s atmosphere, illustrated by Indian music and small car honks joining to make their own unique over the din of children’s pleas, is shot beautifully and mirrors the rise in tension between the couples in the hotel. Intimate conversations of a growing wisdom take place in the quiet atmospheres of luxury restaurants and the lush hotel courtyard.

The cast, famous for their leadership in past roles, allow the journey to India humble them as it humbles the characters they play. After her strong and serious presence in previous films, a withered and helpless Smith takes a surprising turn. Nighy’s usually stern and eerie performances are a stark contrast to his upbeat and witty performance as the adventurous and hopeful Ainslie.

The film intertwines exotic beauty, with the search for love and independence. The story unfolds through young-again romances and “top-of-the-mountain” epiphanies that embrace each traveler. It takes a one-way ticket to India to make British retirees as mature in mind and spirit as they already are of age.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5