Can I tell you how delightful this movie is? As far as I’m concerned, Judy Dench and Maggie Smith are worth the price of admission all by themselves. That the film is smart and entertaining is icing on the cake. I expect savvy storytelling from John Madden, who directed “Shakespeare In Love”, which gave juicy, colorful role to Gwyneth Paltrow. Now he’s done the same here, only this time with an all star cast that includes Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson and Dev Patel. I had a smile on my face from the moment this unusual movie began, and the film maintained that lovely quality all the way to the finale. Dench and the rest of the cast play a group of British geriatrics who, for a variety of reasons, find themselves at a hotel in India, supposedly “the best” in town. But it doesn’t take long for them (and us) to realize that it might well be the “worst hotel” in India. Ol Parker, who based his screenplay on a novel by Deborah Moggach (entitled “These Foolish Things”) generates a good many laughs through simple, observational humor about the quirks of trying to survive in a foreign country. What’s more, director John Madden and his cinematographer has shot an idealized India, especially during the day, that makes you want to book airline tickets tomorrow morning. And that’s the beauty of “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”. It isn’t art: it’s a piece of entertainment, and a mighty good one.
Madden has found the ideal actor for each and every character. Having actresses who can play every note, every color of these well-defined characters is a treat. I’m talking about Maggie Smith and Judy Dench, who both deserve special praise for their work here. The tone of the movie subtly changes as the story grows more serious at some point, but Madden never missteps, and the results are both poignant and funny. Here is yet another movie that puts Hollywood’s bloated blockbusters to shame this year. Go see it.