Evelyn Greenslade (Judi Dench) is in a bit of a pickle in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Her husband has died after 40 years together and since he managed their money, she had no notion that he’d gone through most of their life’s savings and amassed enough debt that she is now going to have to sell their flat.
Douglas Ainslie (Bill Nighy) and his wife Jean (Penelope Wilton) are also in a financial bind. Seems Douglas invested his entire retirement account in their daughter’s Internet start-up which failed to start. She has promised to pay them back, but at the moment all they can afford is a small unit in a retirement community that does have handrails on the walls and a panic button in one place. Of course, as Jean notes during their tour, it’s not very helpful unless one happens to fall within reach of the button.
His honor Graham Dashwood (Tom Wilkinson) is a high judge and he’s on his way to the retirement party of one of his colleagues and tells his companion that one of these days it will be him that retires. Midway through one of the tribute speeches regarding the retiree Graham decides that this will indeed be the day.
Muriel Donnelly is a bit of a bigot and badly in need of hip replacement surgery (which she apparently doesn’t want if a black or Indian doctor will be operating). But when she finds out that the wait list is six months long and there’s a way she can avoid the wait list if she can shelve her bigotry, she’s interested.
Norman Cousins (Ronald Pickup) is a senior citizen who believes there is still a tiger in his tank and he’s looking for and not finding love with younger women.
Madge Hardcastle (Celia Imrie) has gotten through her entire life flirting her way into discounts and special accomodation, but as she’s aging and still single, her life would be much improved if she could spend less on living while still in search of a rich single man she can land.
This group made up entirely of senior citizens forms more or less as they wing their way from Great Britain to Jaipur, India, where they are all moving to take up residence at what looks like a wonderful retirement facility, the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the Elderly and Beautiful. The brochures and on-line photos look idyllic.
Sadly, upon their arrival they find themselves the benefit of the dreams, wishful thinking and apt Photoshopping of Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel) part-owner and manager of the hotel which has definitely seen better days. His father owned it before and left it to Sonny and his two brothers and now he is working to restore it, and has arranged for some new residents.
They aren’t happy, but with little in the way of alternatives, they settle in.
Graham lived in India in his youth and a life-changing event from that time has brought him back, to search out the son of one of the servants who cared for him and his family in those days. He is much more at home early on as the seniors adjust or at least try to adjust to their new home.
Clearly Jean is having the most trouble adjusting, as she refuses to set foot outside the hotel while her husband eagerly explores the area. Evelyn’s fiscal reality check forces her to seek out and find employment as a “cultural consultant” for a call center firm. Given her difficult experience in the aftermath of her husband’s passing with one such operation, she’s perfectly suited for this new opportunity.
Madge seeks out and locates a club for the wealthy and joins on “spec”, hoping she’ll find that wealthy man to support her. Norman happens to run into her at the club in his search for appropriate female companionship.
In a way, there is a similarity between director Madden’s work here in Hotel and other British ensemble works like Love Actually. The cast all has their seperate storylines, but they intertwine around something central that involves all of them and they can be both supportive of one another as well as antagonistic. The stories are all compelling, including a romance between Sonny and his girlfriend Sunaina (Desae). A romance that his mother is adamantly opposed to.
All of the stories are well developed and their tales told before the film’s conclusion. The dialogue is smart. Were there a 3.5 popcorn rating, this film would have earned it. Definitely worth checking out.