The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Movie Review

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Judi Dench, Bill Nighy and Tom Wilkinson in The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Judi Dench, Bill Nighy and Tom Wilkinson in 'The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel' - © Fox Searchlight

Review by Ian Forbes, Sobering Conclusion

Based on a novel with an even longer title, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel comes from director John Madden. No, not the football analyst (Yes, I’ll make this joke every time). This is the John Madden who made last year’s The Debt but is probably best known for Shakespeare in Love.

As with either of those movies, he’s again working with top tier British talent (being English himself probably makes it a smaller coincidence). Audiences will be drowning in the acting riches. The film stars Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith, Penelope Wilton, Ronald Pickup, Celia Imrie and Dev Patel. It’s the kind of cast that could make watching a table read worth the price of admission.

The story involves a collection of elderly Brits who have been adorably conned into moving to a struggling Indian hotel, ran by Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel). He dreams of turning the crumbling property into the vision his father had of the place and attempts to make it come true almost solely on nerve and optimism. Each of the new tenants come to India with different goals, expectations and baggage. As they handle those elements for themselves, Sonny is juggling not only the rigors of trying to make the hotel turn a profit but also must figure out a way to get his mother to accept his girlfriend and stop trying to run his life.


It’s plain to see that there are character details and subplots that are likely developed and explored much more in the book. That’s the nature of any literary translation. However, screenwriter Ol Parker manages to balance things effectively and the end result is a successive ensemble effort beautifully delivered by the actors.

Of course, in doing so, audiences looking for a quick and cute diversion may find things moving a bit slower than they want. Considering the number of characters, I felt the pacing was about right and it’s hard to see how it could have been trimmed without sacrificing more than would be gained. There is a nice mix of comedy with the drama and although the demographic is likely to skew slightly older, anyone who enjoys fine acting will do just fine.

The vibrancy of India comes through The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and boosts the already engaging effort by the actors. This is one of those movies that is saccharine enough to temper my overall esteem but makes it one of the easiest films to recommend to nearly anyone looking for nothing more than a good, solid movie. Just be forewarned that watching Dev Patel again try to woo a remarkably beautiful Indian girl may make you long to watch Slumdog Millionaire again so make sure your DVD is handy for a possible double feature (decide for yourself if you want the heavier film first or second).

GRADE: B+

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel opens on May 11, 2012 and is PG-13 for sexual content and language.

Ian Forbes

Member of the San Diego Film Critics Society, writing film reviews since 2005. Curmudgeon and lover of Susanne Bier films. Sadly, unlike Candyman, saying my name three times in a mirror does not result in my sudden appearance. However, you'll likely find me wherever a movie is severely melancholy.
Ian Forbes
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