Wednesday, June 20, 2012

You Can Teach A Old Dog New Tricks

Three and a half stars

You know, a lot of old people give up. I don’t mean old in the sense of a mean spirited way, but I mean old as in when you’re old, you’re old. “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”, the new film by John Madden, the director of “Shakespeare in Love”, is about the idea that growing old doesn’t mean it’s over. That’s the message of the film. It’s not a groundbreaking message, but not a bad one none the less. The film is about a bunch of older people in Britain who are preparing to retire. However, they all chose to retire to India, for various reasons. Evelyn (Judi Dench) is a widowed housewife who sells her house to cover expenses. Jean (Penelope Wilton) and Douglas (Bill Nightly) lose their retirement savings. Muriel (Maggie Smith) is outsourcing her hip replacement in a hospital program, Madge (Celia Imrie) is hunting for another husband, Norman (Ronald Pickup) is looking for love and Graham (Tom Wilkinson) is there for very personal reasons.

They all arrive at the hotel, and are greeted by Sonny (Dev Patel), who dreams of escaping his mother’s watchful eye and marrying his girlfriend, Suniana (Tena Dasae). All these people are in India for their own personal reasons, not because they are just there for an adventure. However, it can’t help but be an adventure for all those involved. Going to India isn’t exactly retiring to Florida. No offense, but India’s a bigger adventure than Florida. However, I’m getting off subject. India is a supporting character in this movie, and while the movie wisely focuses on these retiree’s stories, India is the supporting character that provides the opportunities for these characters to move forward with their stories.

India is beautifully shot in this movie and provides the backdrop for some culture shock and some wonderment. The film shows India’s colors and scenery, and uses it beautifully as a backdrop to the newcomers. Evelyn gets a job teaching those who work at a phone bank how to talk to older people. Though, the most affecting story in this is the story of Graham, who is there for very personal reasons, of which I won’t reveal. However, his story is beautifully told. In a way, all their stories are beautifully told. Of course, it’s inevitable in a film like this that the older group would end up helping out the younger people. Evelyn and Muriel end up helping out Sonny a lot. When you think the hotel is going under, they come to the rescue.
“The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” is a feel good movie for grown up’s, as opposed to a movie that looks at old age as some kind of lame end of the road. I like movies about grown up’s for a couple reasons. One of the pleasures of a film like this isn’t just the backdrop of a foreign country or heartwarming stories. It’s seeing those older actors, those pro’s. With so many movies about young people with superpowers, it’s always a pleasure to see a movie about older people who happen to just be people.

 “The Exotic Marigold Hotel” is a wonderful film about growing older, and not looking at it as the end. However, a lot of people will probably think this is some boring film only for the older set, and I don’t think that’s really true. Just because they are older doesn’t mean their stories are any less important. So, instead of lingering on the age of the people in this film, which will probably drive away many viewers, linger on their stories instead. You can do a lot worse than retiring to India. At least it’s an adventure. You know, unlike Florida.  

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