Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Review: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a sterling example that a movie can be well written, expertly directed, and feature a cast of incredibly talented actors performing at the top of their game, and still not be very entertaining.  During it’s theatrical run, I had absolutely no interest in seeing this movie, but that’s probably because I am a male who is under the age of fifty.  Clearly, when they put this project together, the powers-that-be did not have me in mind as part of their target demographic.  However, I don’t live in a vacuum and that means at times I have to watch movies that run completely counter to my interests – and that more or less explains how I ended up spending a Sunday night on this movie.

The movie is about an ensemble group of British seniors who are coping with issues that can be unique to individuals in their golden years.  Each finds their way to a website advertising a lovely hotel in India serving as a senior community paradise.  When the group arrives at the establishment, they find the accommodations not exactly as advertised and thus the classic “fish out of water” narrative ensues. 

Technically, it is a sound movie.  The plot has depth, builds tension, has conflict, and offers catharsis.  Director John Madden does a good job of moving pieces around the city and capturing the sights and sounds of India.  There is an order and proficiency to the way the movie unfolds that makes it feel like a formula copied straight from a textbook, which unfortunately also makes the movie feel a bit bland and unimaginative.

As for the cast, the work is top notch.  From Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, to Bill Nighy and Maggie Smith – the credits are lined with a veritable who’s who of British talent.  Judi Dench runs point for the ensemble as the narrative voice and while it’s not her most remarkable performance, it is a very credible one.  Ditto for the other veterans of British screen and stage as across the board, most everyone delivers a solid B+ performance.  Unfortunately, I was unable to become invested in their respective plights, which may be more a reflection of my personal entertainment preferences than some gaping hole or miscalculation in the plot.

So what am I saying here?  Would I recommend it?  Would I not recommend it?  I guess that really depends on where your interests lay.  The narrative is a collection of personal journeys for individuals in their twilight years finding their way in uncharted waters.  While there may be some universality to this notion of “the fish out of water,” this film does not have universal appeal.  Adrenaline junkies, and RomCom enthusiasts will definitely want to avoid this one, while those who can immerse themselves in character driven films without the need to identify closely with the protagonists will find more enjoyment from this project.  In the gambling world, we would call this one a Pick ‘Em.  The choice is yours.

Standout Performance: Tena Desae gets the nod for her screen presence and for her ability to work opposite Dev Patel’s uneven performance.


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