Friday, May 11, 2012

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel houses the newest thing to be outsourced to India; senior citizens. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is an uplifting, heartfelt film with an intrinsic warmth that can only come from emotional sincerity.

Muriel Donnelly (Maggie Smith) thought her worst nightmare is a dark skinned doctor, but in order to get a new hip, she opted to have her medical care outsourced to India. She decided to stay at the The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the Elderly and Beautiful, a small family owned hotel run by the young, and ambitious, yet underachieving Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel). Dutiful parents Douglas Ainslie (Bill Nighy) and his wife Jean (Penelope Wilton) come to the hotel after an act of parental sacrifice makes old age very difficult. Judge Graham Dashwood (Tom Wilkinson) stays at the hotel while takes care of unresolved business from his childhood. Evelyn Gleenslade (Judi Dench) has lived a life sheltered from adventure and joy and decides to embark on an her life’s adventure starting in India.

Put most succinctly, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a film about love and all its accoutrement – especially regret. All incarnations of love are shown: parental, romantic, friendly, and societal. The richness, warmth, depth, scars, flaws and sacrifices of love are shamelessly laid out for the audience’s examination. It is displayed with all the insight, judgment, and wisdom of a person with a lifetime of experience benefiting and being stung by love.

Even though there are no giant curve balls that smack the audience in the face (flame throwing grannies), the stories are no less compelling. It is exactly because they could be any one of us or any of our grandparents that it impossible for an audience member not to see themselves in the characters. They are all deeply flawed, but no less endearing. Their excuses, duty, loyalty, love, status, and ease are ones we might all use to justify the decisions we make to make small compromises in our life. They show the path of those small bumps in a different direction.

While the story of some of the characters is easy to predict, it is no less enjoyable to watch those characters develop predictably. There are a few characters though, especially Graham and Evelyn, who take journeys of love that challenge younger audience members to examine their choices, and whose stories are not easy to foretell.

The cast of seasoned actors matches the delicate writing, each giving their characters a subtle layered quality. It is pretty hard to go wrong with a cast whose cumulative years in the business may reach quadruple digits. I was most taken by Wilkinson, who used Graham to simultaneously rip apart my heart and sew it back together.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a gift to the heart, because it examines love without mania, without cliché Hollywood mechanics, without syrup, and without losing sight of how love should feel.

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