6/4/2012 8:03:00 AM MOVIE REVIEW: Best Exotic Marigold Hotel already one of year's best
20th Century Fox
Judi Dench stars in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a thoroughly engaging movie; a joy to see in every element of its 2 hours. It's about seven middle-aged English people who have a need to 'move on' and they decide on India. One married couple and five other individuals are not associated or connected in any way.
Judi Dench is Evelyn, a recent widow. She learns that her husband has left her big debts and she has to sell everything she owns to pay the creditors.
Graham (Tom Wilkerson) is a judge who is disgusted by the retirement party for a colleague and realizes his distaste for the event is more about his own weariness with his career.
Douglas and Jean (Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilton) are 40 years into a contentious marriage. Douglas has just retired from government service and they must live on an inadequate meager pension.
Norman (Ronald Pickup) is a senior fellow who tries to pass for a youngish lothario. He doesn't quite succeed.
Madge (Celia Imrie) is still a very attractive woman and is not looking for romance too intensely. (She says she has remained unmarried by choice - but not her choice!)
Maggie Smith is Muriel, who badly needs a hip replacement. She is by offended by the non-Caucasian doctors at the hospital and especially when she is told that it may be six months before they can schedule the procedure. The doctor, from India, tells her she can go to India and have the work done almost immediately. She goes for that.
They each have been drawn in by a brochure from the hotel, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, in Udaipur. It is a mid-size city whose principal employer is a computer help center with hundreds of people talking on the phone trying to help you and me here in the U.S.
The trip to Udaipur is a terrible confused mess after the plane lands. They endure an overnight trip on an overcrowded bus and a wild ride through the city in taxis that are basically motorized rickshaws.
The biggest disappointment comes when they arrive at The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which is rundown, dirty and in no way resembling the brochure. They are greeted by the proprietor, Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel, the star of Slumdog Millionaire), who assures them that all will be well very shortly. Of course, that's not to be and Sonny is continuously displaying optimism about the best hotel available. His mantra is, "Everything will be all right in the end and if everything is not all right, it is not the end!"
Gradually, the group becomes oriented to the shortcomings of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and oriented to each other. They become friends and supporters and even Muriel (Smith) softens her sharp attitude. Their stories become intertwined, like various subplots as they reveal their inner thoughts and feelings.
Sonny also has a story. He's an inept businessman with a domineering mother who won't allow him to marry Sunaina, the girl he's been seeing and whose love he shares. She's one of the telephone techies and her boss is her brother who runs the operation. Sunaina leaves Sonny when he hesitates to defy his mother. There is a beautiful, moving scene when Sonny pleads with her to come back to him and marry him.
In fact, every scene in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is special and there isn't a dull moment in the whole film. It's skillfully directed with excellent timing as we weave through the various scenarios. The stories are interesting and we care about the characters. Every performance, by all the players, is pitch-perfect. The dialog is never trite and many times very funny.
The cinematography in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel deserves special praise. Many of the scenes show the city - its teeming population, the stalls and kiosks, some of its humble dwellings (not at the same squalid level as in Slumdog Millionaire) and the constant explosion of colors throughout. There isn't a bland shot anywhere.
It's a long way to year's end and we'll see more Oscar-contender films. But now I'll put in my pitch for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotelis playing at Harkins Sedona 6 Theater.