I had planned to go to the movie ‘Salmon Fishing in the Yemen’ at our local theatre. I don’t go to many movies, so this was an event I was looking forward to. But some friends decided on a spur-of-the-moment to see the British comedy The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and invited me to join them. I hadn’t heard about the movie but I immediately said yes because I love spending time with these friends and besides who could resist a title like that?
Even though a popcorn and drink is a necessary part of the movie event for me and we were too full from the meal we’d just shared to have either, I did not even notice. The film is adorable and engaged me from the first.
We got to the theatre a bit later than we’d planned. I needed a potty break so asked the other three to find a seat. When I found them, two of our group were sitting in seats that looked perfect. On an aisle toward the back. They had left two seats between them for me and another friend. But the other friend was sitting one row back and they all seemed to be having a discussion. I immediately caught the problem. In the next row down in the second seat from the aisle sat a tall man with a big head (they always are, aren’t they?). I joined my friend one row back in the only two seats available – which just happened to fall behind the two vacant seats left for us. We could see the screen perfectly. Thus we began our adventure on a comic note – and the notes only got better and better.
We first meet seven strangers of a certain age through a montage of enticing travel brochures and online marketing. It is clear these seven are all primed for an adventure to transport them from their everyday lives. They book passage to India to spend their golden years as the first residents of the enthusiastically named Best Marigold Hotel for the Elderly and Beautiful.
Of course they arrive to a hotel that is nothing like the depictions in the promotional material. But the ‘director’ of the hotel, a young man with a dream played brilliantly by Dev Patel, assures them with his favourite mantra, that ‘everything will be all right in the end. If it is not all right, then it is not yet the end’.
Like India, the movie is a romp through brightly beautiful scenes that are almost stagey, and lives that are in shambles. We laugh, we cry, we are enchanted.
The characters are indeed ‘elderly and beautiful’. Despite their numbers and the limited time we have with each, we get to know their stories deeply enough to satisfy. Perhaps that is due to the skill of the screenwriter; certainly much credit must go to the stellar British cast: Judy Dench, Bill Nighy (especially delightful in this role), Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson, Penelope Wilton, Ronald Pickup, Celia Imrie and the aforementioned Dev Patel.
The movie is based on the novel ‘These Foolish Things’ by British author Deborah Moggach. Normally I would prefer to read the book before watching the movie but in this case I had no time, which perhaps is just as well, as apparently the book is not that closely followed for the film. I am certain the book will find me one of these days and I shall be delighted to read it.
Marigold Hotel is a coming of age story for those who feel past their prime, with the fear of the future angst common to those of a more youthful age. It is about hope and anxiety and finding love and a place in the world. But it has one quality not in common with the latter group – the possibility of an endearing renewal of a spirit grown weary.
The other day I was having lunch with a couple from out of town who were as enamoured with the movie as we were. The male half of the couple, a Brit, mentioned he would like to see a sequel made. Now, that’s as good an endorsement as a movie is likely to get. We need more of these kinds of films. For the better part of two hours one was able to shed the cares of the world with sustained laughter, a feast for the senses and nourishment for the soul.
I highly recommend this movie to individuals of all ages. It is not an easy feat, but the film manages to convey a profound message in a laugh-out-loud way. Sonny turns out to be right: Everything will be all right in the end, so if it is not all right then it is not yet…