The last time John Madden directed Judi Dench, the actress won an Oscar for Shakespeare in Love. The helmer and the Dame are re-teaming in the charismatic The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Dench isn’t alone in the British royalty cast. Madden has gotten Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy and Dev Patel for an equally funny look at growing old in 2012 and a love letter to India.
Studios generally stay away from films that center on the subject that is like Voldemort: He who shall not be named. Growing older is not a sin, honestly, and in Madden’s film, he celebrates the wisdom, clarity and also scary approaching future that is aging.
Dench’s Evelyn has recently lost her husband and is doing fine, but having trouble wrangling her own life from the ashes. Even a call to the internet provider proves complicated when she doesn’t have her husband to validate her access. Wilkinson’s Graham has put in a lifetime at a law firm and is the guy who no one expects will ever retire. During someone else’s retirement party, he announces he’s leaving.
Then there’s Bill Nighy’s Douglas and his wife Jean (Penelope Wilton). Their daughter’s tech company has not taken off as she promised when she borrowed their money. Therefore, they have a serious problem finding a place to live to enjoy their golden years. Then there’s Smith’s Muriel. The only place she can afford a hip replacement surgery is India.
Such is the case with the cast of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. All independently find their way to the Indian “luxury hostel for people of a certain age” as not only the place they need at this moment, but also a locale where they know their next chapter of life will write itself out. Running the establishment is Patel. His Sonny has inherited his father’s run-down hotel and dreams of making it a destination for retirees who still seek adventure.
The film is all about dreams and their place in our lives, whether we are six or sixty. Life is a continual ball of change and given their circumstances, each of our cast of characters manages to adapt to life in India with varying levels of success and ease. That is what makes the film so heartwarming. As it is not afraid to shy away from the taboo subject of birthdays passing, it should not come as a surprise that some pretty serious subjects are dealt with, but as the book by Deborah Moggach did, there is a plethora of humor.
Madden’s work is that rare film that combines a group of talents at the height of their mettle. An entire cast answers the challenge set forth by a director who, above all else, is a gifted storyteller. As fantastic as we found The Avengers, might we suggest also checking into The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel as summer dawns.