Movie review: The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

By Peter Calder

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Judi Dench is just one of the British veterans on the impressive cast list of THe Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.  Photo / Supplied
Judi Dench is just one of the British veterans on the impressive cast list of THe Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Photo / Supplied

It's easy to forgive the formulaic predictability of a film that is discharged with as much flair as this India-set rom-com loosely based on Deborah Moggach's 2004 novel These Foolish Things.

Completely contrived but utterly delightful, it's the story of seven British pensioners who independently retire to Rajasthan ("It's like the Costa del Sol ... with elephants," explains one) when they find their late-life finances a bit short.

Director Madden (Shakespeare in Love) delivers an opening series of crisp vignettes that give the characters' back-stories while offering a pointed commentary on life in modern Britain.

But once the sexagenarian band lands in Udaipur, the hotel becomes the stage set for a mild farce rich in poignant moments.

A cast of British veterans are at the top of their game, chewing some dazzling one-liners with great relish, although Maggie Smith is the standout as a curdled bigot ("If I can't pronounce it, I don't want to eat it") and Bill Nighy's charming, awkward puzzlement is as irresistibly watchable as ever.

A slow reveal of Graham's (Wilkinson) old connection with India is also beautifully handled.

Writer Ol Parker has a keen and affectionate ear for the Indian way of speaking, which he distils into the character of the endlessly optimistic young manager (Slumdog Millionaire's Patel). Crucially the humour never condescends to the locals: it's the visitors who are going through changes here; the Indians know that life is "a privilege, not a right".

If the ending is appallingly drawn-out, I suspect most of the target audience will still be baying for more when the credits roll. Heaps of fun.

Stars: 4/5
Cast: Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Dev Patel
Director: John Madden
Running time: 124 mins
Rating: PG (coarse language, sexual references)
Verdict: Utterly contrived, completely delightful

-TimeOut

- NZ Herald

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