wogma rating: Add to 'must watch' list (?)
On their first visit to India, Judy Dench’s character, who also plays the narrator of the film, describes her feeling with an extremely apt line: “An assault of the senses”. Director John Madden shows us a clichéd, but comfortable India filled with colors, sounds and a large handful of people, but also manages to strike a chord with the stories of the seven characters. Watch The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for its performances and a well-written unfolding of intertwining stories.Read more
Youth is celebrated in the Hindi film industry – where else would you find 40-year-old actors, play college-going students? It’s an industry where a female actor is gracefully expected to retire from being a heroine at the age of 35, tops. In contrast to this, what strikes most about The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is that the movie involves the unfolding on the lives of seven elderly British people and their journey to India. For its abashed take on human experience, regardless of age, The Best Exotic Marigold is a delightful watch.
The film begins with an introduction of characters, and spends not more than a fast-paced minute or two to wittily describe their current lives. It’s a concoction of a cast that you assume (correctly so), cannot go wrong. The ensemble includes Judy Dench as a newly widowed housewife, Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilkin, a married couple of 40 years, Maggie Smith as an uptight ex-housekeeper, Tom Wilkinson as an ex-court Judge, Ronald Pickup (true to his name) as wannabe Casanova longing for companionship and Celia Imrie as a hopeful husband hunter.
They all find themselves on a flight to Jaipur to a hotel/retreat for the “Elderly and the Beautiful” – where they meet an effervescent Sonny (Dev Patel), the manager of the hotel who tries to sell the dusty, out of order place as an upcoming palace. Evidently, their hopes and dreams of an exciting old-age experience is on the brink of shattering.
We see the film take a route of discovery; an interesting mix of self-discovery and a sense of wonder and amazement towards this culture shock. Director, John Madden is able to place the personal stories and the wide array of public experiences with a captivating sense of visual beauty.
Within the first half of the film, you get absorbed into the lives of these characters; even Patel’s life as the manager of the hotel; he has his own baggage. You find yourself hoping the Hotel will have a makeover soon, and that it looks as beautiful as Patel’s Shakespearean mumbling to potential financers. Soon, you find yourself falling in love with the surroundings, even though the choice to portray an ever-Indian aspect in the film is largely clichéd (with stress on the heat, stench, over-population, and our obsessive curiosity towards foreigners), you find that an effort has been made.
The background score through the film is overwhelming, with its soothing classical Hindustani tones. Most of all, it’s a relief to see the Indians in the film talk in Hindi and not with an accented English.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is not a fast-paced film with too much to absorb – it allows you to slowly take in every experience that the characters are experiencing, and every visual that over-powers them. The Indian clichés are calming, and remind you of surrounding that you are used to. Sometimes, the film does ponder over a situation for far too long, trying to bring out the abstract beauty of the scene, but for the most part, the performances, profound dialogue and comical/wondrous perspective of India make the film a worth-while watch.
This review is by guest reviewer Swetha Ramakrishnan. Swetha Ramakrishnan is currently living and working in Mumbai. She's a self-confessed film enthusiast and can most likely be found talking to anyone and everyone about popular cinema and her love for SRK. Swetha Ramakrishnan also blogs at http://swetharamakrishnan.blogspot.com/.
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