It’s interesting, I wasn’t actually planning on reviewing this originally, as I didn’t have much to say on it, but after unintentionally watching The Darjeeling Limited on the same day, I have a few things I would like to say about it. And these comments aren’t necessarily technical critiques or anything like that, it more has to do with the way Caucasians view India. Now I am going to talk about what I liked about The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, but that may not be the actual purpose of this post, I’m not really sure yet.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel takes several aging Brits, all of whom are tired of the expectations of their normal lives, and places them in India, a destination drastically different from their home. You may have seen many of these actors before, delivering wonderful performances in the Harry Potter films and Downton Abbey, among other films. Another character in the film is also the hotel itself- a resort that its owner, played with astounding optimism and buoyancy by Dev Patel, has extreme faith in, despite its shabby condition. He is always moving, moving, moving, and wants to make the hotel a place so wonderful that the elderly “will simply refuse to die.” And indeed he almost achieves his goal, and achieves it with the hotel, too. While it is found by these retirees to be struggling and empty at the beginning of the film, it soon changes, becoming a glowing oasis, a bubbling fountain of youth. I think this is a bit of a statement on India from the film’s makers, as they portray it as almost a bathhouse of rejuvenation, a hot-tub of enlightenment, if you follow me. This seems to be the way many view India, and the way it is portrayed in many films, like The Darjeeling Limited. Essentially, the message of these films is that India, being a place so different in its smell and color and structure than the western world, will give you new hope and a new perspective on life.
This message is not as obvious in The Darjeeling Limited, as Wes Anderson’s tendency to drift toward awkwardness makes the film’s characters view India a little more cynically and with less hope than say, Dame Judi Dench does. However, they too find their eventual enlightenment and reconnect as brothers, and maybe this is the comment on India- that because it is so startlingly and shockingly different than the West, it is impossible to not begin to view life differently, to move a step closer toward nirvana.
But all of this aside, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a delightful film. The cast is witty and enjoyable, some of the best British actors working today, and the whole movie is filled with happiness and radiates light. While it may not be the most life-changing, the most profound, the most satisfying film I have ever seen, it is a nice one, a pleasant after-dinner mint.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is directed by John Madden (Shakespeare in Love), starring Judi Dench, Celia Imrie, Bill Nighy, Ronald Pickup, Tom Wilkinson, Maggie Smith, Penelope Wilton, and Dev Patel. 123 minutes long, Rated PG-13.