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The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel(2011)
For a disparate group of English pensioners, retirement takes an unconventional turn when they abandon their homeland, enticed by advertisements for THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL, a seemingly luxurious sanctuary for “the elderly and beautiful” in Jaipur, India. On arrival, they discover that the hotel falls somewhat short of the romantic idyll promised in the brochure, but they are gradually won over by the ever-optimistic young manager Sonny, and tentatively embark on a new adventure, finding that life can begin again when you let go of the past.
For more about The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and the The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Blu-ray release, see the The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Blu-ray Review published by Casey Broadwater on September 23, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith, Penelope Wilton, Tom Wilkinson, Ronald Pickup
Director: John Madden
» See full cast & crew
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Blu-ray Review
Oldsters loving, losing, and living it up in Jaipur.
Reviewed by Casey Broadwater, September 23, 2012
With multiplexes dominated by 3D comic book spectacles, teen-centric horror movies, and expendable shoot-em-up action flicks, I imagine it can be tough for those over 60, say, to find films that speak to them. Yes, there's the occasional Meryl Streep comedy or prestige drama, but so few films are geared specifically towards those in their golden years, and it's even rarer still to find one that's actually good. But let me up the ante: How unusual is it to see a film that's not only a.) well-written, b.) concerned with post-retirement life, and c.) still appealable to a wider audience, but that also d.) stars an ensemble cast of some of the most venerable screen legends alive?
When it comes to The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, we can actually circle e.) all of the above. Directed by Shakespeare In Love's John Madden, the charming drama-comedy is based on Deborah Moggach's 2004 novel These Foolish Things, and features a veritable who's who of lauded British thespians, including Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, and Tom Wilkinson. Set in Jaipur, the "Paris of India," the film is something like a more mainstream and contemporary Merchant-Ivory production or a "pop" Satyajit Ray film. And while it does veer a bit too closely to eye- blotting sentimentality at times, it's genuinely affecting and funny as it reflects the many facets of growing older.
The film's first act introduces the ensemble cast of geriatric characters by way of quick but insightful vignettes. Judy Dench is Evelyn, a technologically inept recent widow struggling to make ends meet after her husband's fatal heart attack, while Tom Wilkinson plays Graham, a high court judged who lived in India as a young man and has irrepressible urge to return. Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilton—who played a tottering married couple in Shaun of Dead—are reunited again as Doug and Jean, pensioners who sunk their life savings into their daughter's bust of an internet start-up company. Celia Imrie is Madge, a stay-at-home single grandma looking for some late-in-life action, Ronald Pickup is the old horndog Norman—a charmless speed dater with a lust for life—and Maggie Smith, as Muriel, is a rabid racist and xenophobe who complains of a black doctor, "He can wash all he'd like and that color's not coming out." She's on a six-month waiting list for hip replacement surgery, but learns she can get the procedure sooner—and cheaper—if she goes to India.
Promising adventure, romance, and inexpensive living, the erstwhile British colony calls all seven of the characters. Answering an online ad to live in a retirement villa called The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel ("for the old and beautiful"), the strangers soon find themselves thrown together en route to Jaipur, a journey involving a missed flight, a crowded overnight bus, and frantic tuk-tuk rides. Since he's familiar with the subcontinent, Graham quickly takes a leadership role, guiding the overwhelmed and inexperienced travelers to what may be—in a grimly literal sense—their final destination. Misrepresented by way of Photoshop trickery, the once grand hotel turns out to be a shabby dump, run by the hopelessly naive Sonny (Slumdog Millionaire's Dev Patel), an in-over-his-head youngster with zero business sense.
The film spins off a different subplot for each character, but there's a common, binding narrative thread here—retirees coming to grips with their new place in life, staving off regret and learning to embrace what time they have left. Evelyn, who doesn't know Wi-Fi from broadband, starts a blog and takes a job as a cultural advisor for a call center. Doug excitedly goes off exploring while his pessimistic frump of a wife sits within the confines of the hotel, complaining about everything. Madge and Normal both join a social club, hoping to mingle with wealthy singles. Muriel finds her long-held racial attitudes challenged when she develops a cautious friendship with her low-caste maid. And in the film's most affecting storyline, Graham goes searching for his long-lost first love, wracked by guilt over the circumstances that originally drove them apart. We also follow Sonny's path to proper manhood as he stands up to his overbearing mother and finally confesses his true feelings to his girlfriend, Sunaina (Tena Desae).
There's nothing particularly new here—expect the usual love triangles and heartache, the mid-to-end life crises and marital blowups—but screenwriter Ol Parker has woven these characters together into a detailed tapestry of getting-up-there-in-age motifs. Director John Madden gives the picture a satisfying tone as well; it's wistful but still energetic, sometimes tragically sad but also brilliantly funny. It goes without saying that India itself becomes an influential character in the film, adding color and noise and the exotic element of the title. There are some borderline mawkish tearjerk moments, and some might tire of the pat philosophizing doled out by Evelyn, whose blog posts sometimes too literally give voice to main themes—"all we know about the future is that it will be different," she says, or "the person who risks nothing, does nothing, has nothing"—but for a movie about old-timers falling in and out of love, Marigold Hotel thankfully isn't nearly as mushy as it could've been.
It certainly helps that with the possible exception of Dev Patel—who wildly overplays his bumbling manager role—the cast is thoroughly wonderful. Maggie Smith exudes cold privileged snobbery like no one else, and her gradual turn to warmth over the course of the film makes for an impressive transformation. Judi Dench inspires empathy as a woman stepping out on her own after years of letting her husband make all the decisions. Penelope Wilton finds a good balance in the movie's toughest role—which requires her to be a shrill, nagging cipher—and Bill Nighy lopes along with his loveably hangdog looks and understated wit. For my two rupees, though, Tom Wilkinson gives the most memorable performance, lonely and bereaved, graceful and kind, harboring more secrets than his heart can bear.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Blu-ray, Video Quality
"Nothing can prepare the uninitiated for this riot of noise and color," says Judi Dench of India at one point in the film, and that's a pretty good summation of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel's Blu-ray presentation as well. 20th Century Fox's 1080p/AVC-encoded transfer is true to the rather grainy 35mm source material—there's been no DNR smearing here, no visible edge enhancement either—and the image does frequently burst with the lively color of Hindustan. The turquoises and pinks and intense greens of shanty-like local homes and storefronts. The vivid purple of saris. The burnished orange of marigolds in heaps. Once the film leaves dreary old grey/blue England, the palette changes immediately, with a warm cast, punchy colors, and creamy highlights. Black levels are as dense as they need to be and contrast is spot on, carving out a picture with plenty of dimensional presence. The thickness of the grain in the film stock somewhat limits clarity at times, but the image still displays a good deal of fine, high definition detail, particularly visible in facial and clothing textures. Some of the grain in the darker sequences has a blue speckled quality, but I didn't spot any overt compression or authoring issues. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel looks wonderful.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The hectic clamor of Indian streets is convincingly reproduced in the film's lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track, which, if not quite a "riot of noise," at least offers carefully considered sound design and a good sense of immersion. Far from front-heavy, the mix extends to all six speakers—yes, there are a few instances of mild but appreciable subwoofer engagement—and the rears often come alive with environmental ambience and cross- channel effects. The tweeting and fluttering of birds and the buzzing of insects. Tuk-tuks zooming between channels. The rapid chug of a train. The "storm of car horns and vendors," as Dench's character puts it. Backing up the ongoing drama is a fantastic, locally-inflected score by Thomas Newman, the multiple Emmy and Grammy award-winning composer who's probably best known for his work on The Shawshank Redemption and American Beauty. The music is rich and layered and clear, emerging from all sides. Throughout the film, dialogue is consistently balanced and easy to understand, even in the craziest thoroughfares and marketplaces. For those that might need or want them, the disc also includes a generous array of dub and subtitle options.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
I would've loved a commentary from from Madden—or the cast!—but unfortunately, the only extras on the disc are brief promos that highlight certain aspects of the film. Nothing very substantive here.
The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
I think I've found the perfect stocking stuffer for my grandparents this year. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is that rare film that's neither condescending nor perversely sentimental about the process of growing old. At the same time, the sharpness of its writing and the universality of its themes—love and loss, guilt and regret—make it enjoyable for just about any adult audience. And then there's the cast, which, performance for performance, might be the best ensemble of the year, with emotionally affecting turns from Judi Dench and Tom Wilkinson in particular. I'll confess to tearing up at least twice. The film looks and sounds wonderful on Blu-ray—making the most out of the colorful, frantic Indian setting—and despite the lack of substantive special features, this disc is easy to recommend.
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