Saturday, May 12, 2012

"The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" doesn't provide seniors with an easy way to live

When people retire and lose loved ones (or even super-long-living parents) they often get unwanted solicitations for opportunities to find “an easy way to live”. 
So “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” for the elderly and beautiful, directed by John Madden (“Shakespeare in Love”, which I do remember) begins in dank old England, with Evelyn Greenslade (Judi Dench) contemplating how she will go on with her late husband’s debt.  Another couple is insulted when a real estate agent shows a British retirement home with a railing around the wall and a security hot plate for falls.  Pretty soon they all learn about the Marigold Hotel in India, which will not turn out to be a wel- equipped CCCRC  (Continuing Care Retirement Community).  On an English golf course, Douglas Ainslie (Bill Nighy) says that the resort will be like Florida, but “with more elephants.”

Once they all get there, it’s pretty much a quaint dump, of course, surrounded by the hustle and bustle of overpopulated, caste-driven India. The manager, Sonny (Dev Patel), sees it as a business opportunity to be flipped.  But he becomes the ultimate huckster (“… then it is not the end”).

The place is indeed quirky.  Some rooms don’t have doors, and the phones don’t work at first, but Sonny has his own Internet connection. Dev (“Slumdog Millionaire”) plays the part as a goofball (it might work with someone like Bill Murray), but he is just so cute, as the camera dawdles on his hairy arms but smooth chest in many scenes.  And he’s also fighting for a basic civil right, to choose his own wife rather than give in to the Indian custom of arranged marriages.

One character, Graham (Tom Wilkinson) says he’s gay when approached by a female interested in romance – and then the film develops a back story about how the family of a past boy friend in India had felt shamed.  He has returned for the end of life.

And in the end, “all’s well”: to save the hotel from Sonny’s creditors, all the new residents will wind up with lucrative jobs running it.  Will they find new romance?  They will gradually become more open to it than I would.

The film is distributed by Fox Searchlight with Participant Media, which stresses social issues, as the production company. The official site is here.  

I saw the film at the early evening show at the AMC Shirlington, starting the second week, in a large auditorium, before a relatively large crowd.  The audience did chuckle a lot and find the movie funny.

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