If all you want to see is talented British performers of a certain age, then “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” is for you.
If you want something surprising, perhaps with a bit of an edge, then you’ll have to look elsewhere. The storylines of the seven characters who are guests at the less-than-stellar, and certainly not exotic, hotel twine together and apart in ways that are apparent right from the beginning and will not astonish any viewer.
The characters are:
- Muriel (Maggie Smith), a bigot who is traveling to India because doctors there can replace her hip more quickly and inexpensively than in England.
- Judi Dench, who plays Evelyn, a widow who still grieves for her husband and decides she needs to finally experience some travel.
- Graham (Tom Wilkinson), a newly retired executive who decides to return to India to look up a lost friend.
- Jean and Douglas (Penelope Wilson and Bill Nighy), who bicker constantly and have lost their savings in an unwise venture.
- Norman (Ronald Pickup), who seeks romance.
- Madge (Celia Imre), who seeks the acquaintance of a wealthy man.
They expect to see a “luxury development” where people spend their golden years. But what they find is a rundown building, without doors and with leaky faucets, that’s anything other what its manager Sonny (Dev Patel, “Slumdog Millionaire”) thinks it can be. His girlfriend (Tena Desae) works at a call center, but she does meet the approval of Sonny’s mother, who wants to find him a suitable wife.
Director John Madden (“Shakespeare in Love”) has an eye for the colorful bustle of India and also the good looks of his charming, older performers. The transitions that the characters go through are not always believable. One of the characters, in fact, changes so quickly and radically that it’s simply ridiculous and is in no way believable. Still, it is a delight to see performers who are veteran actors provided with substantial roles against a background that is as charming as they are. I loved watching their reactions to the traffic and vehicles on the streets of India.
The finale is just about what you would expect. Really, the story is another fish-out-of-water tale, but the performers make it an above-average outing.