Monday, 26 March 2012

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

The second event of the third weekend of birthday celebrations was to see the film The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. The film is richly textured with humorous insights into the problems and challenges of getting old. There is an outstanding all star cast. The theme is the same as the Susan Boyle Story in that you should never judge someone by their appearance alone.

Seven elders decide to gamble with their futures and go to live in the Indian city of Jaipur although two do so under protest and with no intention of staying. The Hotel is a dilapidated former Palace in the middle of the city offering a package which includes prepaid one way standard airfare and transfers and a modest full board deal of service for retired people which in theory provide a higher quality of life than likely in the UK. Unfortunately the venture is managed by the head in the clouds son of a successful family whose father had held a similar ambition but also lacked the business skills.
Dev Patel plays Sonny full of ambition and good intentions but struggling to achieve the basics of what is promised from clean cockroach free rooms, effective plumping and telephone systems. The venture gets off to the worst possible start with the plane from the capital to the hotel located city postponed because of fog and the group follow the lead of one of its members in taking the overnight bus rather than putting up somewhere in the capital. I also did not understand why they did not take the train as the city is the HQ of the state and regional railway system.

The story only hangs together because of the desperation the group although never explain why the most reluctant of the group Muriel played by Dame Maggie Smith should end up in the hotel albeit for a temporary period rather than book a traditional unit with lift and all mod cons for her operation and recovery. Muriel urgently needs a hip replacement and is offered a waiting list short cut by having the operation in India. The problem is that Murial is a racist and has no wish to be touched someone without a white skin. She asks to be seen by someone born in the UK and this brings her an Indian hospital doctor but such is her constant discomfort that she overcomes her prejudice but takes a supply biscuits and other portable foods with her although liquids are removed at the airport under the prevailing security conditions.

The operation being successful she remains at the hotel a prisoner pending recovery and it is during this period that she pays attention to the hotel maid who is one of the untouchables. She is invited to take tea with the family of the young woman and this experience is not without its problems. She finds her feet in every sense and learning that the future of the hotel is under threat she investigates without revealing her intentions and arranges a bank loan on the understanding that she is to be the Assistant Manager. As with the other guests each has a back story which makes them ideal residents. She was in service with a family for several decades and was asked to help train an assistant only to find she was retired with the assistant taking her job.

In contrast Tom Wilkinson plays a High Court Judge who decides to retire and go to India in search of his one and only true love, then a young Indian boy where the relationship was severed when the nature of their friendship was discovered. He had returned to the UK and made no attempt to maintain contact with the young man whose family regarded the orientation as a humiliation. Unfortunately the house where the young man lives had been demolished along with the rest of the street and there was no immediate way of finding out the relocation. He spends days visiting the authorities filling the same form at the start of each day until the man is located. He finds that he is married although his wife knows all about the relationship and the two meet with great feeling.

Graham, the former judge has lived with the guilt as well his lost love during rest of his life but is now content to find that the man has had a good life and that the experience was viewed as he had. He is found dead soon afterwards when it is revealed that he had a serious heart condition which had led to his decision to return to India.

Norman is a con man lothario played by Ronald Pickup who finds it difficult to faceup to his age and that he is no longer attractive to the young women he fancies. He hopes to find someone young and rich in a new land although Russia and the new Europeans states would have been a more likely destination as well as the Far East. Celia Imrie as Madge is the female version of Norman although she has led a more conventional life and now divorced whose daughter wants to keep safely in a box so she escapes to India in the hope of new life. She joins the local club pretending to be Royalty, seeking a discount and is then introduced to Ronald Pickup and she introduces him to an older woman at the bar who lives in the city and is lonely and also looking for an adult relationship. Fortunately he drops the act and the two find they have sufficient in common to establish a meaningful relationship although he visits a doctor for virility pills although the claim is then made that she substituted them for aspirins on their first night of passion together. Madge is been having dinner with a wealthy looking Indian gentleman towards the end of the film.

This leaves the blossoming relationship between widowed Evelyn played by Dame Judi Dench and Douglas played by Bill Nighy who is married to Jean (Penelope Wilton). They both victims of trust and loyalty. Evelyn was married for decades leaving financial affairs to her husband who she trusted implicitly only to find that when he died suddenly he had substantial debts which were more than available assets so she had to sell the family home. Her daughter wanted her to move in with her and her family but Judi has other ideas.

The idea of India arose after attempting to speak to an Indian based call centre whom refused to communicate and attend the problem because she was not the account holder. Once in India she seeks employment at a call centre only to see that the place is full of ambitious young graduates but she is taken on as a trainer adviser. Bill Nighy on the other hand had invested his pension fund money in his daughter’s Internet business and they were left to downsize with a sheltered housing flat with railings one property visited. The Indian Hotel appeared on paper a better solution. Bill adapts to the limitations well and becomes a friend of Judi but his wife cannot cope with the noise and the smells, the poverty and begging and the hotel becomes a sanctuary from which she refuses to move and join her husband on his expeditions to the many places of interest in the state. She sees the former Judge as a hero and becomes infatuated with him until being told that he is gay. She is rescued when the company run by her daughter becomes successful and immediately sets off for home with Bill reluctantly agreeing. Their relationship ended in mutual disappointment long before the financial disaster so when because of a festival, the road to the airport is blocked for vehicles, and she gets the opportunity to go on the back of a motor cycle they agree to part and he walks back the hotel and later we see him also on a motor scooter with Judi as his pillion passenger.

The hotel and is limitations as well as the nature of contemporary India remain the core of the film. The hotel is jointly owned by Sonny with two older and successful brothers and their bossy but well intentioned mother is determined that they should sell property and her youngest should move to the Indian capital with her and marry a girl selected for him by her. He is in love with a girl who works at a call centre, the very one where Evelyn has a job and in fact has helped retrain the girl to being more effective when communicating with English speaking people. She is guarded by an older brother who does not think Sonny is good enough for her and indeed that appear to be an ill matched and unlikely couple. When she goes to his room one evening he has forgotten to tell her he has moved to accommodate one the of guests and she is effectively thrown out of the hotel and his life but his mother who he refuses to stand up to. The situation is resolved first by Muriel and getting a loan so the hotel can be developed to become an ongoing paying proposition and then by an elderly family retainer who reminds the mother that the relationship with her husband was not approved by her family so she accepts the situation of the relationship as does the girl’s brother.

The film is designed as a feel good comedy for oldies and therefore contains a good dose of romanticism but it insights into the realities of aging together with the strong cast will lave a mark in the memory and may make into something of a classic.

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