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Before they check-out for good, a group of British old-timers check-in to an Indian hotel, Jaipur’s Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. They’ve assorted motives – money, merriment, mortality – and India might just deliver what they’re looking for. The sub-continent has a way of doing that, at least, it does in cinemas. This is the Grumpy Old Fogies version of Eat Pray Love by way of Four Weddings And A Funeral. In fact, out of a stellar line up, the only person missing is Hugh Grant.

A recent widow (Judi Dench), a recent gay retiree (Tom Wilkinson) and a recently homeless couple (Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilton) are joined by an ageing lothario (Ronald Pickup), an outrageous racist in need of a new hip (Maggie Smith) and a woman unwilling to cede romantic defeat (Celia Imrie). Expecting the best, their booking at Dev Patel’s (Slumdog Millionaire) Marigold Hotel delivers an entirely different experience. But will it also deliver enlightenment? No prizes, this is a John Madden film. And it’s set in India.

Madden strives for the same, colourfully crowd-pleasing tone that worked significant charms in Shakespeare In Love. There’s an energetic mix of colour and noise, sadness and humour in a multi-layered plot recalling the best of Richard Curtis. Yet the results are mixed with some characters mainlained to the heart while others flop around with dangerously thin plot-threads. Patel’s determination to marry modern outrages his domineering mother and is about as fresh as yesterday’s nan bread. Wilkinson’s desire to find a lover from 40 years ago is poignant and achingly real.

The idea of outsourcing old age is a good one, and Ol Parker’s witty script is generally up to the task. Likewise Madding’s stellar cast who clearly relish the opportunity to play hot and hang out in Jaipur. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel successfully tip toes around its own clichés (son finds courage, racist comes good) to create a heart-warming, occasionally heart-breaking, charmer of a movie. As he proved to Oscar winning success with Shakespeare In Love, Madden knows how to press the feel-good button without hitting the cringe button too hard. If you’re open to a funny if familiar formula, and are willing to blur out the less successful elements of character delineation and evolution, there’s a most enlightening time to be had at The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.

moviereview colin fraser film movie australia review critic flicks


Judi Dench
Tom Wilkinson
Bill Nighy
Dev Patel

John Madden

Ol Parker

UK / India

PG / 123 minutes

March 22, 2012
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