The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

“The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” is not exactly a title that rolls right off the tongue, nor is it an easy one to remember.  Even if one simply refers to it as “that hotel movie with Judi Dench and Maggie Smith,” it is still a charming little film, admittedly a bit contrived in parts, although that is also just part of the fun.  The movie has an engaging cast that, in addition to Dench and Smith, includes Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, Ronald Pickup and Dev Patel.

The story concerns a group of British senior citizens thrown together by a combination of fate, lack of acceptable living options, financial realities and, in one case, a strong connection to a past life in India.  They all wind up traveling to India to live at the titular hotel, advertised as one that caters to senior citizens.  In truth it is an old building that, although colorful, is in poor shape.  The hotel is held together, by sheer will, by a young manager, Sonny Kapoor (Patel), who, much like the guests he has attracted, wants to make something of his life.  To this end Sonny always sees the positive in every situation, as when he desperately tries to convince a guest that it is actually to her advantage that her hotel room is lacking a door.  Customer satisfaction is particularly important to Sonny as our protagonists are the only guests at his hotel.

As the film progressed I found myself envious of this group that, despite experiencing culture shock and, in some cases, dealing with their own issues of ethnocentrism, was having a second chance at life, experiencing and attempting to adjust to a new culture and land.  Each character in this story has a strong objective connected to improving his or her life or, as Evelyn Greensdale (played by Dench) reminds us, “The person who risks nothing, does nothing.”

The story is narrated by Evelyn, a widow whose husband’s debts have left her no choice but to sell her flat in England.  Although at the film’s start she does not know if there is a difference between wi-fi and wireless, through the course of the movie she becomes a proficient blogger and, through her blog posts, tells us that “The measure of success is how we cope with disappointment” and “All we know about the future is that it will be different.”  Life affirming quotes like this abound throughout the story.

Smith, whose star has certainly been on the rise with the success of TV’s “Downton Abbey,” plays Muriel Donnelly.  Donnelly, a wheel chair bound woman, learns something about herself and about her attitude toward people of other cultures.

In addition to an enjoyable story, a first rate cast and lots of life affirming quotes, “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” has been beautifully photographed, by Ben Davis, and is a virtual travelogue of many beautiful parts of India.

“The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” is playing locally at Angelika Film Center, 18 West Houston Street, and at AMC Loews Kips Bay Theatre, 570 Second Avenue.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, Director John Madden, 2012,

Fox Searchlight Pictures, 124 minutes, rated PG-13


About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on May 29, 2012, in New and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Alexis Rupert

    I would definitely like to see this movie….or get it on dvd if it doesn’t make it to a theater around me. Thanks making me aware of it!

  2. unpaidfilmcritic

    Thanks Alexis. I hope you can see it!

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