‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ — cast-wise, it’s pure class

By Eleanor Ringel Cater

Old movie titles die hard.

I want to call this “The Best Little Whorehouse in India.”

The title, in fact, is “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.”

And Burt Reynolds and Dolly Parton aren’t anywhere in sight.

Instead, we’ve got Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson and a few other Brit vets spinning straw — nice, well-intentioned straw — into a kind of gold. The gleam is familiar — as are the interwoven “Love Boat-ish” plot lines. Or think “Love Actually” for the senior set (as perceived by Hollywood). That is, anyone over 40, which this cast certainly is.

But age cannot wither the sheer talent these actors dangle from their little toes. They refresh stale dialogue with the merest inflection or raised eyebrow. Foregone conclusions are resolved as if we were seeing “The Sixth Sense” for the first time.

The piffle of a plot is this: a half dozen or so older Londoners find, for various reasons ranging from widowhood to unwise investments, they cannot afford to retire as they’d hope. Suckered in by a glam brochure, they find themselves in Jaipur, at a run-down “hotel” run with more enthusiasm than know-how by Sonny (Dev Patel, from “Slumdog Millionaire”).

Does it really matter who plays the widow and who plays the unhappily married couple? Or who plays the gay man and who plays the flirt?

A subplot, involving Dev, his tyrannical mom and his lovely girlfriend is superfluous. And some of the old-chestnut laugh lines are so very old that not even a couple of Dames can make them new.

Overall, however, “Marigold” delivers enough diversion to recommend it. I was rarely bored and only slighted offended by the “cutesy-old-coots” aspect.

Though, when one of the cast noted that, “gather enough old people together in one place and you’re bound to have one of them kick,” I kinda looked around at all the gray-ish heads that packed — theater bookers please note – packed the Tara at 2 pm on a Tuesday.

“Marigold” may be relatively toothless, but cast-wise, it’s pure class.

Eleanor Ringel, Movie Critic, was the film critic for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for almost 30 years. She was nominated multiple times for a Pulitzer Prize. She won the Best of Cox Critic, IMAGE Film & Video and Women In Film awards. An Atlanta native, she graduated from Westminster and Brown University. She was the critic on WXIA’s Noonday, a member of Entertainment Weekly's Critics Grid and wrote TV Guide’s movie/DVD. She is member of the National Society of Film Critics and currently talks about movies on WMLB and writes the Time Out column for the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

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