Mar 192012


What if retirement could be the start of a new adventure? The chance to do something completely new and live life in a way you’d never imagined was possible. Check out our review of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel after the jump.

Evelyn (Judi Dench) is newly widowed and wanting to do something for herself for once; Muriel (Maggie Smith) needs a hip replacement but can’t afford private treatment in Britain; while Norman (Ronald Pickup) is searching for one more night of passion. The three – along with bickering couple Jean (Penelope Wilton) and Douglas (Bill Nighy), retired judge Graham (Tom Wilkinson), and single woman Carol (Diana Hardcastle) – are all attracted (for very different reasons) to advertisements for the seemingly perfect retreat, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel in India. Of course, advertisements can be deceiving, and the group arrives to find everything is not exactly as they imagined it would be.


While the hotel may be a bit run down, and the youthful manager (Dav Patel) might be in way over his head, it turns out that India and the guests have a lot to teach each other. This film is really about second (and last!) chances and stepping out of your comfort zone to try something new. Each of the characters has a fairly complete individual character arch in the film, and through this we are able to learn a lot about each of them and watch the impact that the journey has on their lives. There is a lot in this film that everyone (even those well below retirement age) can find to relate to.

Judi Dench’s character Evelyn has a story which will resonate with many people. She is an intelligent woman who dedicated her life to looking after her husband and bringing up her children. With her husband dead and her children long since grown-up, this is the first chance she’s had to do something in her life just for herself. I’m sure we all know a woman like this. It’s truly heart-warming to watch her character grow and explore her newfound independence. Norman is also a character which is particularly enjoyable to watch. He knows that his women-chasing days are well and truly past, but he holds out hope that he will get the chance to experience one last night of passion. He character is charming, energetic, and the source of many of the film’s laughs.


The film isn’t all laughs though – India isn’t for everyone and there are some particularly moving scenes. Graham spends his days searches for someone from his past, while Carol barely leaves the hotel and spends every moment complaining about how much she hates it all. Along with the retirees there is also a sub-plot involving hotel manager Sonny and the beautiful girlfriend he does not believe he is worthy of, and his mother does not approve of. The combination of love, laughter, discovery, heartache, and sadness weaves together for a very rich film.

The cast is British acting royalty and they are all on fine form in this film. They breathe such life into their characters, and you are completely invested in the outcome of each and every one of their stories. Dev Patel also does a fantastic job as the hotel manager. He embodies positivity and has such a lot of heart. His story-line is a little cliché, but you can’t help but be charmed.


India is a fantastic setting for this film as its diversity allows each of the characters to have a unique journey. The colours, sounds, and energy of the country are very distinctive, and add a richness and vibrancy to the film. Some of the stereotypes about India are played up a little too much, but for the most part the film respects its location and gives us an interesting look at one tiny corner of it.

While the humour in this film is generally quite amusing, some of the jokes are clearly for an older audience and fall rather flat. Equally, some of the storylines have the emotions laid on extremely thickly and therefore lose some of their effectiveness and poignancy. There are definitely some moments where it’s a little forced.

Overall, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a heart-warming film with plenty of humour, intelligence, hope, and of course love.

The Facts

Director: John Madden
Writer(s): Ol Parker (screenplay), Deborah Moggach (novel)
Starring: Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson
Runtime: 124 minutes
Release date(s): Australia & New Zealand: March 22nd 2012