Movie review: “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”


Partner and I saw the preview for “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” several months ago. We began salivating at the mere sight of Judi Dench and Maggie Smith and Tom Wilkinson, and agreed on the spot that this was a must-see.



We made our pilgrimage to see it this weekend, as did lots of other oldsters. (I heard the lady behind us say: “It looks like an AARP meeting in here!”) We were seated behind a whole row of Red Hat Society members, who’d pulled out all the stops fashion-wise: not just red hats, but red scarves, red feather boas, red sequined purses, red fascinators. Throughout the theater there were wheelchairs, and walkers, and lots of querulous discussions about not being able to hear the dialogue.



But, my goodness, once the film started, you could have heard a pin drop in there.



The movie is a lot of fun. It follows seven people who decide to take a chance on a retirement hotel in Jaipur, India: Judi Dench as a sweet impoverished widow, Maggie Smith as a tough bigoted hip-replacement patient, Tom Wilkinson as a retired judge with a haunted look, Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilton as a married couple on the lines of Richard and Hyacinth Bucket, Celia Imrie as a sassy flirt, and Ronald Pickup as a funny old satyr.



I’m not going to give you too many spoilers, but I can safely tell you that everyone finds India to be a life-changing experience. I can probably tell you also that there is at least one death, but (if you’re like me) you’ll be surprised when it happens. Dev Patel, from “Slumdog Millionaire,” is the hyperactively charming hotel manager; he’s adorable, if a little puppyish and bouncy. (Of course, in comparison with his co-stars – who have about 500 combined years of stage and movie experience – he’s bound to seem a little juvenile.)



The movie’s a fairy-tale, naturally; it’s absurd; it would never be like this in real life. India is presented as a kaleidoscopic whirl of life and color; one character refers to it as “squalid,” but we never see the squalor, only the charm.  As an American, I found the setting charming; I don’t know how I’d have reacted if I’d been an Indian. (I felt this way about “Outsourced” too, both the movie and the TV series; I thought they were great fun, but I wondered uneasily the whole time if I was enjoying the culture-clash stuff in the wrong way.)



But, back at the Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, pretty much everything ends happily, and even dinosaurs like Partner and me need our happily-ever-after movies.



So pop in your dentures and grab your cane and go see it.



About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to

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