Films starring an array of famous actors and actresses have become increasingly popular in recent years. Unlike who will probably never get that formula right since they have little care for story and the all they see is money, the British aren’t so downright stupid. As it was the case with the excellent Love Actually, the British can create heartfelt romantic comedies with an impressive ensemble work because they know the value of character and story. And when you are lucky enough to have an ensemble filled with veteran actors and actresses, it’s only fair to have a material that will deliver the goods. Such is The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
Recent widower Evelyn (Judi Dench), retiree Graham (Tom Wilkinson), couple Douglas (Bill Nighy) and Jean (Penelope Wilton), racist Muriel (Maggie Smith), horny singles Norman and Madge (Celia Imrie) are swept by the promise of a luxurious, entertaining and unique experience of the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. But once they arrived in India they discover that this so called luxurious hotel is anything but, as the rooms are a mess, the walls are falling apart and so forth. While the hotel might not be what was promised, each attendant gradually discovers the magnificence of their surroundings.
When I saw the trailer for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel a while back I wasn’t expecting much, but for the film then to deliver one of the most joyful experiences I’ve had with any film this year was utterly unexpected. Even though the film paints an overly colourful, beautiful and positive picture over India that while somewhat believable, still feels a bit too sugar-coated. It is the performances and the presence of genuine character arcs that ground the whole proceedings. Every cast member in this film hits all the right notes as one would expect, most notably though are Maggie Smith, Judi Dench and Bill Nighy.
Maggie Smith is for me the best part of this film. Her dead-pan humour is absolutely hilarious, as practically every single line brought laughs and laughs. Like only a seasoned actress can, Smith makes her racist character very relatable, likeable and joyful to watch. Her character does some questionable things, but you can tell that deep down this is a very caring woman who is simply a bit cynical after the things that have happened to her. It’s really great to see how she changes throughout the film and surprisingly becomes the rock that holds all these other troubled veterans together.
Judi Dench as the protagonist carries most the film effortlessly and flawlessly. While she has some moments of humour, her story is more of an exploration of who she is. This country gives her some answers and makes her realize what is important in life. And how taking risks is truly the only way not only feel alive, but to also make something of yourself. Dench’s chemistry with Bill Nighy is also palpably brilliant and after this film they both should seriously make more films together. Nighy also delivers a stellar performances and has the most raw, heartfelt and brilliant vocal confrontation in the film with Penelope Wilton.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is easily one of the most heartfelt films I’ve ever seen. Director John Madden does a brilliant job at showcasing the great acting talent present, the beautiful local and gives each character an interesting, real and relatable arc. The film isn’t just all smiles, hugs and kisses, as it does touch upon some harsh truths. Moments like that help ground the film and give an air of authenticity that I was not expecting. This is a film that touches every emotional chord and leaves you with a resounding smile. You’ll be hard-pressed to find something as sweet as The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel this year.