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Best Exotic Marigold Hotel a gem of a movie

Paul Peterson

I was talking to a friend of mine about my favorite films and I smugly named my top three, only to admit that there are three more an hour later that wouldn’t include the first three.
I am a sucker for little pictures that tell a quirky story, and if they’re uplifting and well written, well, they are destined to be in one of  my ever changing favorite films list.
Enter The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, the sweetest film I’ve seen in a very long time.
In some ways the cast is the story and its worth listing just for the gravitas the names command.
Evelyn-Judy Dench
Muriel-Maggie Smith
Douglas and Jean Billnighy and Penelope Wilton
Graham -Tom Wilkinson
Madge-Celia Imrie
Norman-Ronald Pickup

This is a hall of fame cast and even if you don’t recognize all of their names you can’t miss their faces. It’s a great cast and they’re given wonderful roles as a group of Brits who move to India to stretch their retirement dollars. Drawn by an ad for an opulent hotel that speaks to  a different time when things were bigger and grander, they are not necessarily prepared for what they get.
The hotel is owned by a charming young Indian man, Sonny (Slumdog Millionaire’s Dev Patel) who sees what the hotel could be like, rather than anything close to what it really is.
Our 7 characters have 7 very different backgrounds and a whole set of expectations that have no chance to be met but that’s the thing about charming little stories. What lies beneath is more than enough to hold our attention.
The film is directed by John Madden who helmed Shakespeare in Love, which, you guessed it, is one of my favorite films. I could just listen to that movie over and over.
But I digress.
A movie with Judy Dench and Maggie Smith is worth the price of admission, and I’m not talking senior’s rates. Evelyn is widowed and just a little lost never having full embraced the world around her because her husband took care of all those little details. She has had to sell her home in London and is significantly out of her element.  Muriel hates foreigners and food she can’t pronounce but is in India for a cheap hip replacement. She presents as snooty and disconnected but like everyone with a back story there’s more than meets the eye.
From the first time we’re introduced to the characters and the country, I was regretting the inevitable movie clock because I knew at some point the film and this story was going to end and I knew I wouldn’t be ready. I wanted more.
That to me is a great film. What happens is not necessarily a major departure from the expected, or maybe from the hoped for. Sonny is heroic in his oblivion and proof that good things can happen if you believe they’re going to happen. Like all movies that rely on story and not special effects things have a way of rolling out exactly as they should.
I wish I could get excited about action pictures and things blowing up. Maybe if I went hunting and wore camoflauge it would bring me close to Stallone but I don’t really want to kill anything so I’d probably just end up yelling at the deer and trying to undermine their sense of worth. What can I say? We are who we are.
At the end of the day, The Best Exotic Marigold is indeed a little gem and the best film I’ve seen this year. I can stand on that statement. At least for a day or two.
See it for yourself.
If it isn’t playing at a theatre in your neighborhood it is out on DVD this week.
As always, other opinions are welcome, but wrong. That’s it for this week. The cheque’s in the mail and I’m outta here. Paul

Filed Under: News from Everywhere ElsePaul Peterson

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  1. Andy says:

    Dame Judy Dench slowly turning and looking into the Camera… her face speaking even before she mouths the dialogue… brilliant cinema!

  2. Chris says:

    Fully agree. And two of my other faves, along the same lines:

    -The Man Who Went Up a Hill and Came down a Mountain. 1995 Hugh Grant et al

    – Love and Savagery. Alan Hawco from Republic of Doyle.

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