Published Thursday, 01 March 2012
Maggie Smith, Judi Dench and Tom Wilkinson serve up an Indian delight in the new film by the Oscar winning director of Shakespeare In Love, John Madden.
According to the Cinema Exhibitors Association, the biggest group of movie goers in the UK are the 15-24 age group, making up for over 30 per cent of the audiences, with 50 percent of this group going to the cinema once a month compared to only 5 per cent of the over 55's.
Well, that's no surprise as most movies are aimed at the younger audiences and are so juvenile that older audiences would rather take a cold shower than go to the cinema.
But then along comes a seasoned rom-com like The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which as well as being warm, funny and charming, boldly explores older issues like love, sex, relationships that you rarely see in cinema.
Based on the best selling book by Deborah Moggach, a group of seven very different retirees, enticed by advertisements for a newly restored palatial hotel and filled with exotic visions of the good life, leave a drab and dreary England to begin an adventurous new life in India. This is not retirement but rejuvenation, far from being over the hill, these senior citizens are ready to move mountains in pursuit of a life where age does not matter and the best is yet to come.
On arrival, things are not how they were advertised; the palace is a shell of its former self, the staff more than a little eccentric, and a fresh start looks highly unlikely. But, as they soon discover, life and love can begin again even in the most unexpected circumstances.
This is a great ensemble cast, the creme de la creme of British acting royality led by Miss Jean Brodie herself. Dame Maggie Smith plays wheelchair bound Muriel who reluctantly travels to India for a hip replacement.
Then, there's gay High Court judge Graham, played by Tom Wilkinson who having grown up in India, goes in search of the lost love of his youth. Dame Judi Dench is the feisty Evelyn, recently widowed but not yet ready to bow out, who instead decides to write 'a blog of her new life in India for the interweb'. Celia Imrie and Ronald Pickup play two footloose and fancy free golden oldies, who may not be spring chickens but intend to spice up the Autumn of their lives with hot new dates.
And completing the magnificent seven is married couple, Douglas and Jean, played by Billy Nighy and Penelope Wilton, who having lost all their savings, are just about clinging to their marriage and relishing a colourful escape from the gloom.
All the actors are great, of course they are. But for me Bill Nighy is a national treasure. Is there a more loveable British actor? He shines as he always does on the big screen, (Love Actually, Still Crazy, Arthur Christmas). Ever sharp and endlessly funny in his awkward Jarvis Cocker frame, Nighy makes even the clunkiest curried lines sound cool.
Yes, this is cinematic kedgeree and yes, in places it is predictable, but that is exactly what I enjoyed about my two hour stay at The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. In one very funny scene, Judi Dench's character Evelyn explains to an Indian call centre manager what it means to 'dunk' a biscuit. And just like carefully dunking a lovely chocolate biscuit in a warm mug of tea, this delightful film is predictably pleasurable.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (Cert 12a) is now on general release.