It was so exciting to see to see the characters and the country of India come to life onscreen in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. A huge fan of the book, Deborah Moggach’s These Foolish Things, renamed and republished in time for the film’s release, I was quite nervous to see the film. I needn’t have worried. While Ol Parker has changed quite a bit from the book, erasing and changing characters, he’s left the essential center, the heart of the movie, right at its core where it should be.
MY TAKE ON THE BOOK BY DEBORAH MOGGACH
That heart is the story of a group of older British retirees, who for various financial reasons, relocate to a new - and very cheap - hotel in India where they discover it’s never to late to SPOILER ALERT start again. But that wasn't really a spoiler alert, right? I bet you saw this coming right? If you saw the trailer you know what it’s about and you know it’s intended as a feel good movie for its audience, which like its actors, is ‘ a little older’. It’s all heart and it works.
And the heart of that group is Judi Dench, beautiful as the warm-hearted Evelyn. (My husband said they know how to dress her. And they do. She always looked cool and elegant but appropriate to her age and setting) A recent widow with money troubles, she’s plucky and resourceful, and would rather live in India than impose on her son and his family. She’s in direct contrast to Penelope Wilton (Isabel Crawley in Downton Abbey) as Jean who is so pathetically whiny and angry and frightened to find herself in this foreign land that she couldn‘t have a good time if she tried. Which she won‘t. Still, she‘s such a sad sack, we feel sorry for her. Ch - ch - change is good but not for everyone. Bill Nighy, Jean’s husband, Douglas, on the other hand is stimulated by the change, excited to explore the area. Like Judi Dench, he’s eager to see what lies ahead, Also working on a haitus from Downton Abbey, Maggie Smith is bloody marvelous as the crotchety, racist Muriel, channeling Michael Caine’s cockney accent from Alfie. “If I can’t pronounce it I won’t eat it” . Tom Wilkerson plays Norman, a character who has had a sex change (from the book, that is, where he is most like Dorothy) who returns to the country he grew up in to find his long lost love. The young Dev Patel (Slum Dog Millionaire, Newsroom) is the hotelier. Physically, he’s not what I had in mind but he’s so absolutely positively optimistic and cheerful he made me forget the novel’s version. He wants the hotel to be a success; it would break my heart to deny him.
I loved the film. (watch the trailer below) It’s the kind that makes an old girl laugh and cry and feel better for having done so. If by chance you see the movie and you’re interested in traveling to India, the L.A. Times had a blurb on this Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Tour of India