Much like the actual Marigold Hotel in the film, this movie looked much better than it actually was. With a wonderful cast, award-winning director, and intriguing premise, I had high hopes for The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. I mean, it isn’t a bad movie by any stretch of the imagination, but time and time again this film seemed to miss any opportunities of becoming interesting or thought provoking, and instead takes the route of a feel good, heartwarming movie.
Although the film has a rich cast of characters, it is hard to enjoy or connect with any of them until the second half of the film. Instead of introducing characters gradually, all seven of the older characters are introduced back to back through two-minute snapshots of their lives making it difficult to keep track of them at first. In addition, the movie tries to give all of the characters their own small individual plot lines. Unfortunately, what this means is that some plots are more fleshed out then others, and for most of the movie I found myself picking and choosing which characters I actually cared about.
Out of all the characters in the movie, the only character I genuinely cared about was not even one of elderly folks that the film focused on. Instead my favorite character was the manager of the hotel, played by Dev Matel, best know for his staring role in Slumdog Millionaire. Not only did I think he was the funniest character in the movie, but his struggle to balance his traditional mother’s wish to give him an arranged marriage and his relationship with his modern Indian girlfriend was arguable the most compelling side plot in the movie, despite the fact that I was not really satisfied with the way they wrapped it up.
Even though I thought the execution of the film was less then satisfactory, the best part of the movie for me was the interesting ideas it touched on but never explored. There have been a lot of movies that address social and societal issues from the perspective of a minority, but I am hard pressed to think of a movie that takes on these issues from the perspective of the elderly. The way the film handles death, sexuality, marriage and homosexuality is by far the most interesting aspect of the film, but it only seems to scratch the surface and instead focuses on finding a happy resolution to each of these character’s problems.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was not as interesting as the ideas it brings up, but that doesn’t make it a bad film. Although I personally didn’t love the movie, if you are looking for a feel good, happy film I do think it’s worth a watch. However, if you want something with more substance, I don’t think this movie ever reaches its full potential and delivers that.
Rating: 3 out of 5