COMIC DRAMA; 2hr 3min
STARRING: Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith, Penelope Wilton, Tom Wilkinson, Celia Imrie, Ronald Pickup, Dev Patel
Have tuk-tuk, will travel: from left, Dench and Imrie
Adventurous widow Evelyn (Dench), fired-up High Court judge Graham (Wilkinson), incompatible marrieds Douglas and Jean (Nighy and Wilton), prickly Anglophile Muriel (Smith), speed-dating washout Norman (Pickup) and husband-hunting Madge (Imrie) are senior cits with nothing to lose. Why not take their chances with India? On the internet, it’s a paradise and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the Elderly and Beautiful a bed of roses. Or not! In reality, the hotel is almost a ruin, the manager (Patel) is a case and India, as Evelyn notes in her wide-eyed blog, is “an assault on the senses.”
The Brits are blown away, some with a better grace than others as each experiences a different reawakening. Teeming with loopy, frenetic humanity, the subcontinent is a crucible and as though caught in its thrall, John Madden’s direction gambols along like an undisciplined puppy. In Madden’s defence, Ol Parker’s screenplay of Deborah Moggach’s 2004 novel These Foolish Things is slapdash and obvious in too many places. Give this odd-bod time, however, and its bottled-lightning beauty, open-handed optimism and up-for-everything cast paper a plethora of cracks.