First Hit: This was a lovely film with fine acting based in a wonderful story.
When it comes to retiring and what to do next, the options can be very limited based on finances.
Here we have a group of British elderly people who, for mostly financial reasons, find this ad for “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” in Jaipur, India. A recently widowed Evelyn (played by Judi Dench) had always left everything thing up to her husband and when she finds out that selling the flat they live in will only pay off the bills he accumulated, she sees this as a way to do something on her own and to not be controlled any longer.
Graham (played by Tom Wilkinson) is a judge who decides he has to make something right that has been bothering him since his young days in India. Douglas and Jean (played by Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilton respectively) are married and with their meager savings given to their daughter who is involved in a internet startup, they have little or nothing to live on. She is perpetually angry and judgmental of everyone, while Douglas is loyal, inquisitive, interested in life and wants to make the best of everything.
Muriel (played by Maggie Smith) is a physically rundown house manager, who has nothing to do, is bitter, racist, and needs a hip operation. Norman (played by Ronald Pickup), who is a very aged "player" looking for the next woman he can score on.
And lastly Madge (played by Celia Imrie) who can’t stand watching her grandkids as her life’s work, wants passion of the heart and loves men. They make the arduous trip to Jaipur together slowly becoming traveling companions along the way. When they arrive, the Hotel (for the “elderly and beautiful”) is run down and looks nothing like it does in the brochures.
Most want to go home but as they begin to settle in, most find things of interest to explore: Graham, a past relationship; Douglas, exploring the many sights of India; and Evelyn, a job as a coach for a telemarketing firm. Meanwhile Muriel, is bitter about how she ended up here but slowly discovers she has something to offer. Jean holds on to what isn’t (that she has money, is in England, and is happy) and makes appears to make Douglas’ life difficult. Norman tries to hit on Madge but is rebuffed as being not enough, but actually finds the "top of the mountain."
Madge, tries to hit on men and but is slowly understanding that time may have passed her by. The Hotel is run by Sonny (played by Dev Patel) who has high hopes. But as a dreamer he’s great and as a businessman he is not very adept. His controlling mother wants the building sold and Sonny to come live with her in Delhi.
However, Sonny has a gorgeous girlfriend named Sunaina (played by Tena Desae) who is disliked (although unmet) by Sonny’s mother and Sunaina believes in Sonny.
As Sonny says’ throughout the film: Everything will be perfect in the end, if it is not yet perfect, it is not yet the end. And as you will guess by now, at the end of the film, it is all perfect.
Dench is wonderful as a woman believing that she can and will take charge of her life, her scenes with the telemarketers were beautifully spot on. Wilkinson was sublime as the judge who wanted to right a long past wrong. Nighy steals every scene he is in. He is a joy to watch. Wilton was downright perfect as a woman who is bitter for all that isn’t in her life. Smith was transformative in this role as she slowly learns her next step. Pickup is gangly charming but actually gets real and finds love. Imrie is fun and interesting to watch as she works herself up to be a woman wanted by men. Patel exudes Indian charm and optimism and brings a smile each time he’s on screen. Desae is beautiful and in her beauty demands you watch her in the scenes she is in. Ol Parker wrote a charming script with strong characters for each. John Madden put this great ensemble together and orchestrated them to make a very fun, poignant (for older people) watchable film.
Overall: Although many can enjoy this film, the older audience will get far more out of it – it helps to have experience with the challenges of age.