REVIEW: THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL

Words: Robbie King

You’re never too old to go mad in Mumbai…

Post Oscar season has a habit of delivering cinema of the harmless/silly variety and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel has slotted nicely into such a mold.  The story follows seven characters of freedom pass age, simultaneously accepting the offer of spending their twilight years in a Mumbai home for the “elderly and beautiful”.  The film’s shtick is engineered by an ensemble cast consisting of Dev Patel and some reliable English oldies, namely; some dames – Maggie Smith and Judi Dench – as well as other bankable veterans such as Tom Wilkinson and Celia Imrie.  Multiple major characters provide a variety of issues ranging from one old man’s quest for sex (played by Ronald Pickup) right the way through to Tom Wilkinson’s character seeking atonement for humiliating a long lost lover.  This is where the film shows off.  The sensible balance of silly vs serious provides the ideal tools with which to construct an effective well paced comedy-drama.  Scenes are at first fluid and snappy: who’d have thought a film about geriatrics would be so quick off the mark? Then as we approach the half hour mark the film’s gravitas shines through and longer empathetic scenes are introduced.  So far so good…

 

Unfortunately though it is at this point that the obvious gripe comes into play.  On the other side of this film’s watchability coin lies it’s trite formula for humour.  My patience began to wane when faced with endless gag’s that were “funny because they’re about old people.” Grandpa Simpson and Victor Meldrew being the bastions said method.  This new-found level of predictability only goes to undermine the more thoughtful scenes, thus creating a reverse dirt sandwich.  Finally, like all good easy watching, the predictable sentimentality kicks in.  One can’t exactly blame the film for it, it’s a light comedy after all, nevertheless plenty of similar films seem to be able to treat the mushy moments with a lot more class.

Still not every comedy-drama can be made by Richard Curtis and anyway it’s not as if every gag fosters a groan.  Although the film’s a bit twee it’s very watchable and above all else provides the viewer with the most elusive of sentiments, the joy of growing old.

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