Review: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

John Madden’s (the man behind Mrs. Brown and Shakespeare In Love) latest directorial feature, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, follows a group of British pensioners promised a luxurious retirement at India’s exotic Marigold Hotel. However, on arrival, the hotel is in a state of decay. Cue the Indian stereotypes – spicy food, crazy driving and spiritual experiences.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a fun film but it is also incredibly frustrating at points. The Indian setting is striking and Madden’s direction makes the most of both rural and urban parts of the country. He’s also clearly a director that works well with actors and manages to extract some wonderful performances from the all star cast.

However, there are a fair amount of problems with the film. In particular, an unfocussed narrative which spends too long dwelling on the family-dynamic of Dev Patel’s character, Sonny’s family as opposed to more interesting elements – like the relationship developed between Dench and Nighy’s characters. It is this unfocussed narrative that leads to the bloated runtime, which could have done with being cut short twenty minutes.

There are also several problems with the characters. In particular, Sonny, this is a horrendously written character that simply annoys throughout and is subject to cringe-inducing dialogue. Patel is an excellent actor and when he is allowed to do some proper acting, dropping the silly character – he is a joy to watch. There’s also the quite frankly, dull stereotype of the ‘proud Indian family’ shown through Sonny and his mother’s relationship – surely it’s about time the country was seen in a more progressive light?

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel also features a gay character in the form of Tom Wilkinson’s Graham. Watching the character go on a journey to find the man he once loved is particularly heart-warming, but obviously gay people should never be happy – that’s why once Wilkinson’s character finds happiness, he’s swiftly killed off. It feels like a particularly unnecessary move to do so, but it saves this ‘nice film’ from alienating its target audience.

I don’t wish to say I never enjoyed The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, despite these problems. For sheer star power alone, the film is worthy of a watch. As always, Dame Judi Dench is an absolutely delightful as the recently widowed woman looking for a purpose in her life – she truly connects with the audience in this heart-warming turn. Tom Wilkinson also gives an understated yet stirring performance, that is sadly cut-off far too early. There’s also Dame Maggie Smith on hand, for some racist comic relief – watching her character’s journey, becoming more open-minded is also one of the strongest elements of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Unfortunately, Smith does not get much opportunity to interact with the other ensemble, which is slightly disappointing as it would have been nice to see her feature in some scenes with Dench.

Billy Nighy is also a welcome addition as the henpecked husband to Penelope Wilton’s domineering wife. For more comic-relief there is also Ronald Pickup and Celia Imrie, who both enjoy some excellent one-liners and are fun to watch.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a worthwhile watch as a chance to see a stellar British cast having some fun in this spiritual look at India. However, several issues with the script from its ridiculous Indian stereotypes to The Daily Mail-esque look at gay relationships, spoils the fun.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *