A revew of the 2011 film.
I should perhaps start by saying that I had not read the book, These Foolish Things, by Deborah Moggach, on which the film is based, at the time I wrote this review.
What have sheltered widow Evelyn, retired civil servant Douglas and his wife Jean, former judge, Graham, ageing, prejudiced, housekeeper Muriel who needs a new hip, would be casanova Norman and husband hunter Madge all got in common? With such a diverse group you would think not much, aside from all choosing to retire to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the elderly and the beautiful, on the outskirts of Jaipur, India.
Their troubles start the moment they step of the plane in Deli and find the connecting flight to Jaipur cancelled. Just getting to the hotel becomes an adventure in itself, with first a cramped (“first rule of India, there is always room”) bus ride across the sub-continent and then the tuc tucs (tiny three wheeled taxis apparently driven by madmen) in which they finally reach at the hotel.On arrival they find that the hotel is not quite what the brochure indicated, as Sonny, the young manager, had ‘shown a vision of the future’ in his promotional material. When one of the new arrivals complains, Sonny falls back on an old Indian saying that “everything will be alright in the end and if it is not alright, then it is not yet the end” Despite the dilapidated state, they all stay and most of the new residents try to make the best of life there. Slowly, most of them start to adapt to coping with life in a different country, with a very different culture, an almost alien culture for at least one member of the party.
They each start out on a new journey. This time though, it is not a journey of trains, planes and buses but an intensely personal adventure, of self-discovery. In the faded grandeur of the hotel, It teaches them each in their different ways how to live again and for some, it shows them some uncomfortable truths about themselves but something they needed to know..
Some of the seven eventually stay at The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, with only one going home. One of the group dies in India but it is not a sad death. In time, we find out that the character knew he would never return to England. because of a heart condition. Having been in a kind of prison of their own making, freedom and peace was found before the passing.
The film, like the eponymous hotel of the title has a charm about it. The acting of the fine ensemble cast is such that you begin to sympathize with all the characters, sooner or later. Whilst not lightly acted, all the leads imbue their characters with the lightest of touches of their own personalities, which works brilliantly, making you care for and sympathize with them them even more.
Penelope Wilton, who is perhaps best known to British film goers as Ann the long suffering wife of Martin in Ever Decreasing Circles, at first irritates slightly with her pretensions and refusal to ‘dive in’ to her new life. This irritation though comes through because of her acting skills, not from anything lacking or out of place in the film.
The film won considerable critical acclaim; deservedly so. It has a fine cast including Judi Dench, Maggie Smith and Tom Wilkinson and, whilst Judi and Maggie picked up the top honours from the critics, Ronald Pickup, who is arguably the least well know of the lead cast members, assuredly deserves a mention too.
“The only real failure is the failure to try and the measure
of success is, how we deal with disappointment.”
Addendum, added after reading the book, These Foolish Things:
Whilst some of the characters in the movie remain instantly recognisable, I think it is fair to say that the film was inspired, or based on the book but that the screen adaption made some significant changes to the story.