Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

(UK, 2012)

Here’s one that really won’t show you anything new, but that’s not a problem with me if it’s done by good people, and from the heart. This one is. I’m sure it will appeal more to people of a certain age (I’m, ahem, in my mid-sixties), but young people would do well to see it, and think about the elders all around them and the old age that will be theirs, sooner than they think. But they probably won’t. I didn’t, much.
It’s about seven elderly people who are having trouble making ends meet in their retirement, and for different reasons decide to relocate to a hotel in Jaipur, India, that sure looks good in the brochures. When they get there, they find that is what the owner, a young hustler known as Sonny, is good at: brochures. Nothing else works very well. He is played by Dev Patel, who was so good in Slumdog Millionaire. He is earnest, he’s not really trying to flim-flam them, he really dreams of turning his decrepit hotel into a dream residence. But he always puts a ridiculously positive spin on everything, probably conning even himself. These elders react to the situation in different ways, but mostly they adapt. Maggie Smith is the standout in a stellar cast. It’s hard to imagine why she decided to go in the first place, since she is a racist to the bone, but India works its magic even on her. Then there is Judi Dench, and Tom Wilkinson, and Bill Nighy, all of them first-rate.
This was made in India for about ten million, and has grossed 134 million, so there, Hollywood idiots! Make a good story in a place where you can film cheaply, that’s the secret of making money, not blowing 250 million on a piece-of-shit story, not even if you make 350 million. And less ulcers and headaches, too. The scenery in India is great, and took me back to my brief stay there, many years ago now. The colors, the incredible crowds, the pestering children. The only thing they can’t give you is the stifling heat, and be thankful for that. I could never live in India (though it has changed a great deal in some ways, as we see in scenes of huge glass buildings swallowing up the slums), but I’d like to go back and spend a little more time there. There’s no place quite like it.