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Best Exotic Marigold Hotel: My Take on the Movie #book2movies #SaturdayMatinee

My friend Teresa sent me this link to movies for those of us who miss Downton. To be honest, one of my favorite parts of the BBC drama was the relationship between Lady Grantham and Mrs. Crawley played by the inimitable Maggie Smith and Penelope Wilton. Which brings me to today's Saturday Matinee, I’m republishing this post from 2012 on The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, based on the book by Deborah Moggach.The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel boasts an ensemble cast headlined by Judi Dench and featuring both Maggie Smith and Penelope Wilton. You can watch the movie on Amazon, iTunes, YouTube, Vudu and GooglePlay.

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.


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.

Director, John Madden doesn’t have to do much to romanticize the place - there are no gratuitous scenes with candles floating in moonlit pools and the color palette was a bright but a bit more subdued than I expected yet there was a worn grandeur about the place that moved me. And it was so real and yes, exotic. One of my favorite things about movies is how they can take us places we may never be able to go - or necessarily want to go - in real life.

The throngs of people, the drawn faces of the aged, the big eyes and smiles of the young, the ancient structures with dark weatherbeaten walls, the newly constructed skyskrapers and everywhere the tuk-tuks carting people here and there. Absolutely fascinating.

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