The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel - Cinema Review

'it is ultimately left to a fantastic and mysterious performance by Tom Wilkinson to drag the narrative along'

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is one of those films which finds itself in the problematic position of containing a serious amount of 'issues', without ever discovering anything of note to say about any of them. The loneliness of old age? Present, but not correct. Repressed sexuality, the alienation of being forced into another culture? Both here, presented well in fact, but not in any detail that goes above fleeting. Racism? Well, that's just a tool for the comic relief to use when most inappropriate... isn't it?

Had Ol Parker's adaptation of Deborah Moggach's novel, These Foolish Things, restrained itself, focused on just a few of the subject matters, then you imagine it would have found intelligent content in at least some of them but, as it is, with an already over-burdened runtime of one-hundred and twenty-four minutes, it really finds few-to-none, leaving only the occasionally warm character interactions to comfort you. Even some of those bumble around somewhat. Maggie Smith's arc is as predictable as microwave food. Evelyn (Judi Dench) is lovely but, if we're being honest, a little boring. Norman (Ronald Pickup), sorely under-used. Penelope Wilton's Jean, from a different film altogether. Probably one written by Ricky Gervais.

It is ultimately left to a fantastic and mysterious performance by Tom Wilkinson to drag the narrative along. Even the successes of this though, after an 'event' at the beginning of the third act, start to get lost and forgotten amongst the slow-moving stodge. Dev Patel pratfalls gamely but his sub-plot shows its colours too later in the day too, as moping sets in like rigor mortis. A few scripting delights perk things up every so often but just when you think the whole thing is going to get going, it becomes the very thing its protagonists aspire not to be; ageing, bored, fed up with the assigned place on the roulette wheel of life.

The colours and the locations are beautiful and well used and the cinematography, when it is allowed out on to the streets, makes good use of both the beautiful vistas and of the close-ups required to experience the hustle and bustle of Udaipur. But looking at the technicalities doesn't save things either, especially when director John Madden insists on planting on obvious image every few scenes. Long shot of a bird taking flight just after a character has experienced a moment of relief? Check. A conversation about confusion taking place amongst lots of muddled steps? Oh yes. It's a film which ultimately ends up as a tick list of issues and symbols, none of them, sadly, used all that well.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is out in UK cinemas on Friday 24th February. A US release is currently set for Friday 4th May.

Look further...

'an enjoyable film for the older crowd — even if Patel’s own romantic storyline feels like a bit of a postscript' - Empire, 4/5


  1. Was looking forward to this one. Now I'm not so sure after reading your review. Mind you, as I am heading towards the age of the stars, maybe I'll take a different view.

    1. It had a great trailer - I was quite looking forward to it I must admit - but yes, didn't think it delivered. The reviews so far seem quite split; Empire have gone 4, Total Film have gone 2, for example. Will look out to see what you think if you do go for it.

  2. Don't let the tepid reviews keep you away. My wife and I saw it last night and thoroughly enjoyed it. We were in a full theater in Dallas, TX (mostly over-40s, to be sure). The movie got an ovation at the end. It was gentle, funny, and sad, and we walked out feeling good. Great dialogue and some memorable characters.

    1. Glad you liked it more than I! Going to be interesting to see how we it does in the US. The cast definitely skews it very much towards a British audience.