Director: John Madden
Starring: Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Dev Patel, Tom Wilkinson
Some glorious Indian scenery and a stellar cast of Britain’s best-loved senior actors provide just enough motivation to see this light-hearted comic farce.
Marking his third collaboration with Dench, the Shakespeare in Love director Madden fills this amiable ensemble piece with sunshine and laughter, but that is not quite enough to prevent it from succumbing to patronising platitude in places. Facing money worries, marital woes and health problems as old age approaches, a motley gang of ageing people decide to swap cold, rainy Britain for sunny retirement in a luxurious Rajasthan hotel.
Inevitably, their crumbling destination is not quite the fantasy palace advertised by the wily local businessman Sonny Kapoor (Patel), just as their arrival in India predictably leads to endless comic revelations and culture-clash complications.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is based on Deborah Moggach’s 2004 novel These Foolish Things, which made some semi-serious points about caring for an increasingly elderly population. But Madden and the screenwriter Ol Parker have essentially reworked the story into feel-good fluff, milking their Indian location for every last off-the-shelf cliché of tourist-brochure exoticism – from spiritual gurus to street urchins, cricket matches to call centres.
The cast is great and the humour genial, but the prevailing tone is a little too lazy, coasting along on creaky jokes and slightly faded charms.
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