On a much-needed bestie night outing with the fabulous Caity, we decided to go see The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. It was a Saturday night showing and walking into the theater, we quickly realized we were about 30 years younger than the target demographic for the film. Regardless, it’s full of adorable British people (McGonagall! Dame Judi! Bill Nighy!) and it’s also got the gorgeous Dev Patel (most famous for starring in Slumdog Millionaire). The previews looked hilarious and I love the scenery of India, so it looked incredibly promising.
The plot centers on a group of elderly British people who travel to India to stay at The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the Elderly and Beautiful. The run-down hotel is managed by Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel) who dreams of running a place that is so beautiful the elderly simply refuse to die. Sonny is young and idealistic and just wants to make his elderly guests as happy as possible. The hotel is not quite what the brochures described to his guests (as he tells them, it presents a dream of what the Marigold could be). He convinces his guests to stay and give it a shot, although not all the rooms have doors and the phones are not yet working. When they complain about the hotel, he just tells them, “We have a saying in India: Everything will be alright in the end. So if it not yet alright, it is not yet the end.”
The hotel is populated by seven British guests who are there for various reasons. There is the couple whose marriage is on its last legs. The new widow who has come to India to try to start an independent life and get her first job. The elderly, super racist woman who has come to get a hip replacement and recuperate. The gay man who is returning to India to try and reconnect with an old lover. The horny old man who just wants to get laid. The woman who just wants to find a rich India husband. I will keep the actors separate from the descriptions, so as not to spoil anything too much.
The seven guests make up the primary plot, although Sonny’s story is also extremely prominent. Sonny is the “screw-up” son whose tendency to dream big does not fit in with what his traditional Indian mother wants for him. He wants to marry a young woman named Sunaina that works in a call center, which is not quite the match his mother wanted for him. Sonny’s two older brothers and him each own one-third of the hotel, and when Sonny’s brothers threaten to team up and sell the hotel, one of the guests naturally figures out a way to save it and get the hotel turning a profit.
Obviously, there are a ton of plotlines in this film. Since it comes in right at two hours, none of the plots get too in-depth. As a result, the whole film feels a little bit scattered and one-dimensional. If they had eliminated one or two of the guests, they could have tightened things up and gone more in depth with the most interesting characters. The funniest parts of the movie were, naturally, in the previews. It was not a bad film. It was just average and had the potential to be much better. The cast they assembled was fantastic and deserved better. Of course, the Indian scenery was absolutely beautiful and they could have capitalized on that even more.
Overall, it was a good-enough film, but it had the potential to be great. It just did not quite achieve its potential.