I read a very mixed review of the film called The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, suggesting that the acting and photography were beautiful, but that the story was quite limited. The lack of originality would, it was suggested, be particularly acute for the film goer who had never been to India and who had not read books about Indian society. The fact that the film was based on Deborah Moggach‘s super 2004 novel, These Foolish Things, was not seen to rescue the story line.
None of this bothered me in the slightest because of three factors. Firstly I love Moggach’s novels. Secondly spouse Joe and I travelled widely in central India. Thirdly I know a great deal about the academic history of this huge British colony, at least before independence.
Arriving by tuk tuk; first glimpse of their new hotel in Jaipur
All the characters had their own story. Judi Dench had become widowed and couldn’t cope with modernity and its endless requirements. Bill Nighy and Jean Wilton were a married couple whose financial security was precarious and their serenity in retirement was looking even more precarious. Ronald Pickup planned to resurrect his sex life, thousands of ks from home. Maggie Smith, a very fine actress, was a rather nasty lady who needed surgery she couldn’t afford. The character we can probably identify with most easily was a High Court judge played by Tom Wilkinson. He had been very happy in India as a young man and hoped he could recapture his youth. Celia Imre was looking for something new, not her lost youth revisited.
Is there anyone in the universe who hasn't been bored witless in airports?
Joe and I loved Jaipur’s architecture and history when we were touring India a few years ago, but I did find the city messy, noisy and a tad chaotic. And since the film’s cinematography in Jaipur was so accurate and so colourful, I thought I could smell the spices coming out of the cinema screen. So it should not surprise the cinema-goer that older Europeans escaping to India might find that their lives had become messy, noisy and a tad chaotic.
Hotel owner Sonny and his girlfriend taste freedom from mum
I am with Ed Gibbs in the Sydney Morning Herald. For cinema goers able to relate, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel will come as a welcome surprise. A sunny but shrewd musing, it offers an oft-ignored section of the cinema-going audience a delightful hit all their own. And I would add that it offers oft-ignored issues that mature people worry about – financial stability, quality health care, lost youth, rekindled sex lives and graceful retirement.