The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

Outsourcing old age, that’s the idea.

Imagine in the distant (or not so distant) future, you retire to a warm climate, enjoy a colourful land and best of all, affordable living in a retirement resort. The concept is sold to several retirees from Britain. Little do they know the advertised Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the Elderly and Beautiful is a run-down establishment of faded glory. The place is Jaipur, India.

The Hotel owner is Sonny Kapoor (Dev Patel of Slumdog Millionaire fame) who has inherited the property from his late father. Despite his mother’s insistence to close it down and get him back to live with her in Delhi to marry the girl of her choice, Sonny is determined to make it on his own. He has already picked out his girl, and is positive about his plan to outsource retirement, among many other services India is already offering to foreign countries.

The trailer doesn’t do justice to the movie. When I first watched it, I was totally baffled … why would such a top-notch cast of veteran British actors take up what seems to be a shallow and silly farce? But after watching the movie, I think I can make a guess: they must have known what fun it would be to do this, they must have sensed the thematic relevance as well. Why I went out to see it if I didn’t like the trailer? I just couldn’t resist the combined star power and my trust in their judgment.

Where can you see these actors together on one big screen: Judi Dench, Evelyn, who has depended on her husband all the years but now recently widowed, decides to take charge of her life; Maggie Smith, Muriel, who is xenophobic and won’t eat anything she can’t pronounce, goes to India mainly to have a hip replacement she can afford; Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilton, Douglas and Jean, are an incompatible couple who sticks together out of habit and loyalty; Tom Wilkinson, Graham, a judge who follows his heart and returns to his former home to look for a long-lost friend; Celia Imrie, Madge, who at retirement is still looking for the right one, and Ronald Pickup, Norman, seems to know exactly what he wants.

The humour is natural and not forced, the dialogues are witty and refreshing. Something that is not easily found in comedies, with the expert cast of veteran actors, a sense of seriousness exudes from their performance, giving weight to the characters and making their simple storylines convincing.

Oscar nominated director John Madden (Shakespeare In Love,1998) has done a great job in concocting the on-screen chemistry of his cast. Their camaraderie as fellow travellers from the UK and as guests in the Marigold Hotel emit an appealing and quiet persuasion. I’ve enjoyed every one of their storylines. From the very start of the film, I’m drawn into each of the characters while they are still in England. I follow their journey expectantly, open and ready to accept the unfolding of events.

As with all ‘exotic’ movies, there bound to be cultural features that can easily lead to stereotyping and patronizing. That I expected. But what I didn’t was that these ‘typical’ renderings are few and mostly restrained. Further, shot right in Udaipur, India, many scenes are in situ happenings that come out naturalistic and real. The whole movie is a delightful surprise, probably the main one is, I don’t mind watching it again.

~ ~ ~ Ripples

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If she’s not birding by the Pond, Arti’s likely watching a movie, reading, or writing a review. Creator of Ripple Effects, bylines in Asian American Press, Vague Visages, Curator Magazine.

52 thoughts on “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”

  1. Oh Arti, I am so glad to hear that this is a good movie! I’ve heard it advertised and I thought it would have to be good with Judi Dench and Maggie Smith in it. Definitely looking forward to seeing this now.


    1. Yes, just Judi Dench and Maggie Smith already have enough drawing power. It’s interesting to see Maggie Smith and Penelope Wilton together out of a Downton Abbey episode. I think you’ll enjoy this one… just remember it’s a light comedy. 😉


    1. It’s was first released in 2011, but since only on limited screens. I suppose it’s more popular in Europe. We in Cowtown are late in getting it on the big screen. You’re right, a stellar cast indeed.


  2. I cannot wait to see it now especially since you gave it a Ripple’s thumbs up. I saw Dev Patel being interviewed on the “Tavis Smiley” PBS show, and he was so lovable and adorable in the clip they showed (and so in awe of his cast members) that I was eager to know more.


    1. He’s right. He’s so fortunate to work among these veteran acting talents at such an early start of his career. It’s interesting to see the contrast too in the movie, the young and the old… 😉


  3. If it weren’t for the good acting, this would have just been a silly movie, I think. I forfeit watching The Avengers right in town and drove an hour to see it. I was not disappointed. It gave me a lot to think about as like those characters, I have recently retired. I especially find Tom Wilkinson’ character and his story most touching. Like you, I wouldn’t mind watching it again when it is released closer to home. Arti, thanks for another insightful review.


    1. Yinling,

      I’d make the same choice too. 😉 I’d probably see it again on second run. You know, I saw it on Victoria Day holiday Monday, and the theatre was almost full with, yes, you guess it, mostly retirees. But really, it’s not just for retirees of course. I feel the veteran actors exude an unspoken dignity in their performance. And like you, I found Tom Wilkinson’s storyline quite moving. I like that almost mythical, cinematic moment as well. If there’s any ‘silliness’, it may well have come from the young actor’s highly animated acting.

      BTW, the movie is adapted from a novel by Deborah Moggach entitled These Foolish Things. Don’t you just love that title. Now I want to read it too.


  4. I had seen a few interviews with the principals (Dench, Wilkinson, NIghy, Madden) and found the interviews interesting, which drew me to see the film. However, I felt that I had already seen so much of it in the trailers. I didn’t like most of the story lines, except for the those of Dench and Wilkenson. I did like the interactions between Dench and Nighy, but Nighy and his bitter wife didn’t seem very believable, as if it were a completely different person. I enjoyed the movie, but I feel that by next week I won’t remember much about it (already I can’t remember the character names, just the actors). While it was an entertaining movie, I was expecting a lot more.


    1. Anne,

      Thanks for sharing your opposing view. I haven’t seen any of the interviews. There’s simply no promotion here except the trailer. At first, from the trailer I’d decided to not see the film. 😉 Later I found it to be relatively well received (e.g. Rotten Tomatoes, Roger Ebert) and I was just too curious about the all-star cast. I finally went, with reluctance I might add. It drew me in as soon as it began. This could well be a difference in expectations. You with high. I went in with low expectation, just pure curiosity… and felt entertained. Mind you, I wouldn’t take too seriously a comedy. Even the storylines, some I favor more than others. And, I can’t remember the names either… just looked up IMDB 😉


      1. An interesting thing that I noted in the movie v the trailer: here in the states, one trailer shows Bill Nighy’s character golfing with a buddy explaining the move to India. “So it’s like Florida”, his friend says. “Yes, with elephants”. In the movie, the actual quote is someplace else, I think a Costa del Sol location, not Florida. It’s a funny line, but it cracks me up that they changed it for the US trailer!


        1. Talking about remembering names, I don’t even recall that scene in the movie or trailer. You’re so observant to get that one. For me, if it’s a light comedy, I think I usually gauge by the overall feeling I get from it. I know I don’t like all the subplots equally, but it’s the film as a whole that I find watchable. I’m comparing it to Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. Despite being a fan of Kristin Scott Thomas, I’d say I enjoy Marigold more.


      2. I may only have remembered it because I saw it multiple times and I thought it was funny, especially since we spend a lot of time in retirement/tourist areas of Florida! My husband didn’t remember it from either the trailer or the movie. It was one of the opening scenes where they set up the story lines.

        Like Janell points out below, that one line is a gem: “Everything will be alright in the end. So if it is not all right, then we have not come to the end.” That I will remember!


  5. Coming out of hiding to say how glad I am to hear you enjoyed this movie.

    It’s been on my “go-see” list since viewing the preview. The music, the sound bites, the actors, the colors, the country…. yes, all of that… but more, it seemed a recipe for a slice of reality; how many times have I “signed on” for something that didn’t quite live up to my expectations? So how irresistible it was for me to hear, how “Everything will be all right in the end. That if it’s not all right, then it’s not the end.”

    Hoping to go Sunday. It will make fine ‘church.’


    1. Janell,

      What I like is the change at the end, the resolution if you will. And looks like you’re all geared up, knowing that quote from the trailer I suppose. That’s the thing with trailers though, there won’t be any spontaneous surprises. Mind you, for me, there are pleasant surprises. And oh one more thing, I feel Midnight’s Children has a tiny bit of influence on prompting me to see this movie too. Maybe the same for you? 😉


  6. I’m so glad that you enjoyed this, as it’s one film actually on my list of possible viewings! I used to read Deborah Moggach novels when they came out, 15 years ago and you remind me that I haven’t read her in a long time. I should pick her up again – her work was always funny and compassionate.


    1. Litlove,

      I haven’t heard of Deborah Moggach until now. I’m just intrigued by how filmmakers can see a book will be good film material… and how they make ‘non-filmmable’ literary works. I’m thinking now of Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children. The film adaptation will come out this fall, and I’m all geared up to watch it, as you know, by slow reading the book with a small blog group. It’s good that movies can introduce viewers to the books on which they are based. I’ve already put a hold on this book from the library… and not surprisingly, they’ve a movie tie-in edition with the movie title. However, I like the original title more: These Foolish Things.


  7. As usual, I go to movies without seeing the trailers or checking the synopsis. ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’ is indeed a pleasant, delightful film. I was attracted to the poster and it’s cast – Judi Dench is my all time favorite…and with Maggie Smith, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy to name a few, I thought nothing could go wrong.

    I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, there are some great lines & dialogues.
    Me too Arti, I want to see it again!


    1. Guess this one really pays off… your refrain from finding out anything about a film before you see it. Good for you and I’m glad you’ve enjoyed it. And yes, sometimes a stellar cast is enough to draw you out of your home to watch it on the big screen. And every now and then, even great actors need some fun too. How they work a ‘weak’ script just shows their talents.


  8. I’m so glad to read good words of this — from the minute I saw the poster in December I knew I wanted to see it, but then you always worry! Will it hold up to expectations? From all you’ve said, I think it does indeed! Maybe this weekend — if it’s coming here, it should be here now!


    1. Jeanie,

      You know I was quite reluctant to see it after watching the trailer, but glad I did. It’s not an exceptionally well-made comedy, but still, a quiet delight.


  9. The movie opens here today. My daughters are home for the summer and all of them want to see it, too. We’re planning a ‘girls night’ next week. I’m happy to hear you enjoyed it so much. Also, I just received notice that Netflix is sending The Makioka Sisters out today. Lots of good viewing ahead!


    1. JoAnn,

      I know you gals are going to have a good time with this. The Makioka Sisters will be quite a contrast, now that is one classic. I don’t have Netflix. Do they carry any Special Features? I watched The Makioka Sisters from The Criterion Collection, and that’s the best restoration of classic films with superb commentaries by film scholars. Anyway, I hope you’ll enjoy both!


  10. Well, I’ve never heard of a single one of the actors, but the plot sounds marvelous. It also sounds believable. I know several people who have taken such unusual paths into retirement, including one woman who liquidated all her holdings and moved onto a cruise ship. Now, she spends her time sailing from one port to another. As she says, neither boredom nor wardrobe is a problem when your shipmates change every week. 😉

    I just checked and see that the film actually has opened at the theatre right down the road from me. I’m going to see if I can’t twist someone’s arm into going on Monday – from your review, I think my friend and I both would enjoy it.


    1. Linda,

      Good that you actually know someone who subscribes to ‘outsourced retirement.’ You’ll find this movie relevant then. But this is the first time I hear someone retiring on a cruise ship. However, that reminds me of the animated futuristic movie Wall E, where humans abandon Earth and live on a space cruise ship. If you’re interested, here’s my review. I’m curious to know what you think about Marigold Hotel. Do come back and let us know after you’ve seen it. 😉


  11. I went, I saw, and the movie conquered me, utterly. Both my friend and I found all the storylines believable. I was drawn in immediately, amused through the entire film, and satisfied with the resolutions at the end.

    When it comes to Sonny’s “over-acting”, I think one clue to that lies in the line, ““Everything will be all right in the end. If it’s not all right, then it’s not the end.” I’ve seen that saying for years at craft shows and in shops, painted on everything from old barn wood to fancy plaques. For me, the line was a symbol of his attempt to be a certain kind of businessman, working out of a model that wasn’t really his. It was a beautiful bit of irony – Americans coming to India to stay at the hotel of an American-go-getter hotelier.

    I didn’t have any trouble at all with Douglas and Jean – in fact, I’ve known a few couples very much like them. Perhaps because of that, they seemed the most believable to me. Perhaps because I’m exactly at the age where retirement decisions are being made – or forced upon people – many of the issues in the film are the stuff of everyday conversations.

    What most intrigued me was watching the process of acculturation – or its lack. While the setting was quite different, many of the dynamics shown in the film were exactly what I experienced and observed after I moved to Africa. Everyone adjusts in their own time and their own way – and the pressures of adjusting can easily open up hidden faults in people and relationships.

    All in all, it was fine entertainment. I’d be happy to see it again, and am ever so glad you alerted me to it!


    1. So glad to know you’ve enjoyed the movie and found it relevant. Love your allusion! I agree with you that ‘many of the issues in the film are the stuff of everyday conversations.’ People deal with these issues no matter where they are. And you’re right in pointing out that the pressures of adjusting to another culture could ‘easily open up hidden faults in people and relationships.’ Thanks for sharing your insights, Linda. Who needs AdSense when there are ripples! 😉


  12. I just read all your posts that I missed. I go back to the comments I receive and try to answer them in order so that I can see if there are any questions. You asked about my collages. My daughter downloaded a program on my computer in 2009 that she had. This program is no longer available on the Net so I am pleased to have it. Your review on Lady Almina and the Real Downton Abbey which I read several months ago is perfect. You know when I read about Howard Carter in Egypt with Lord Carnarvon I went to my bookshelves and found the book I had read. It is in French called “La Tombe de Toutankhamon” by Howard Carter – a paperback. I looked at the back where I usually pencil in the date I finish a book. It said “finished on Monday 24 October 1994 after having visited twice Luxuor and the Cairo Museum.” I should re-read it.

    You asked about the future of Sarkozy the ex-French president. I heard that he said he would leave the political arena but that’s all I found out. Your photos of Egypt are so good. I went there 3 times to visit my family. My father was brought up in Egypt and my only aunt lived there. My cousins who could read the heliographs took me often to the tombs but at the time I was not into photography. I only have two first cousins; they are Armenian-Egyptians, and still live there.

    You asked if it is safe to walk alone in Central Park. Yes, I believe it is. Just don’t go there at night. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is on my list of movies to go and see. I try to see all movies made in or about India. My daughter’s in laws are from South India, the state of Kerala, so I enjoy learning more about their culture. They have invited us to go there but my husband is reluctant as he does not like crowds. We may still go someday. Dame Judi Dench is one of my favorites so I would have gone to see her anyway. Thanks for the good report on the film.


    1. Vagabonde,

      What wonderful experiences you must have had through visiting your family around the globe! I’m amazed at how in-touch you’re with all sorts of places, their history and people. Visiting your Recollections is always a joy and an eye-opener. Bring your husband with you when you go see Marigold Hotel, maybe he’d change his mind and go with you to Kerala. Oh, and thanks for your reply to all of my queries. 😉


  13. Ack. I was sure I’d commented on this post, but apparently I hadn’t. Have heard more and more about this little gem of a film and now I’m on the look out! Thank you for your review.


  14. Arti, I have jumped to the comment box, skipping your review for the moment. Diane Wakoski and I are going to see this today, and I don’t want to read any reviews until afterward. I’ll be back!

    I’m excited to see a movie in the theater for the first time in a while.


    1. How wonderful to be seeing this with Diane Wakoski! Yes, of course, skip my review, go with a clean page. I’d love to hear your view, and maybe Diane’s too (?)… just what would a poet think about the Marigold Hotel, I wonder. 😉


  15. I hope you won’t mind if I gush a bit here. 🙂 Diane and I both loved the film, from the introductions of each character, to the end.

    I was not put off by this trailer, as I so often am before seeing a film, feeling that I already know too much of the story. I just wanted more.

    When the whole lot of them took their seats in the airport one by one, Diane rubbed her hands together as if to say, “Oh goodie, we’re in for a treat.” All those actors lined up for an adventure, and we get to witness it! Then the pace was awfully good, going from the comic to the more serious issues, of aging, agism, self discovery, acceptance, prejudice.

    I thought the writing and directing were wonderful. As Diane said, there is something so appealing about any story about India that includes British characters. It is discomfiting, but also intriguing. We want to see how moderns are living out the relationship that is founded in condescension and colonialism, turned into independence. I did wonder how Jean ever decided to go to India in the first place, though, for as much as she hated it.

    I had a very emotional response to the film. I guess I was primed for that, because I am quite attached to India, through a close friendship with a friend there (whom I have never met, except online: my friend Rauf, who I met via blogs). I have learned much about the place, and Don and I have contemplated going to visit. So seeing the streets just as they really are was powerful for me, and seeing westerners navigating the culture and physical realities too. I felt that Dev Patel did a pretty funny job acting in a role that I have witnessed myself with many Indians.

    I think what mostly moved me was that even in the autumn of life, the characters discovered truths about themselves and life. It is about freedom, and choosing to be who you really are. The central relationship between Judi Dench’s Evelyn and her dead husband Hugh, which was really about her relationship with herself, was beautifully conceived and executed. (It is resonant with the poem I currently have posted.) But the story was not just about the elderly, and how it is never too late to change. It was also about young people who learn to make their own choices and not their parents’. What better context for this than India! I have recently read an article by Terry Castle about the current generation of young people, and how they do not separate from parents (texting constantly, for instance). It is a troubling reality, and the movie also shows that parents must separate from their children.

    Well, thanks for letting me write such a long comment (not that you could stop me). Oh, and though this was not a “costume drama,” I loved Judi Dench’s outfits. 🙂


    1. Ruth,

      Thank you for such a detailed sharing of your response, and Diane’s too. This is an insightful review of the film. I’m glad you’ve enjoyed it and found it meaningful. ‘Condescension and colonialism’ were what I was afraid of when I first watched the trailer, without knowing the full story and the fact that characters can and do change. These changes are what make stories gratifying, and those who don’t change make a tragic contrast. I’ve just discovered the website of Deborah Moggach, author of the book from which the movie is adapted. She is a British writer and, what a find: she wrote the screenplay of Pride and Prejudice (2005).

      Again, as always, thanks so much for the ripples! 😉


  16. This film received some crushing reviews here in UK. Ignore them. Trust the quality of the absolutely stellar cast to carry off anything with style and panache…. There is depth in the characterisation, though much of it is left to one’s own development and understanding, and like many British films, much subtlety lives just below the quite simple dialogue. The film is a little gem, and perhaps might, like youth itself, be wasted on the young…… A feel-good film that is both thought-provoking and uplifting. Fabulous colours, delightful one-liners and of course the best cast assembled for years. Go, enjoy.


    1. Mark,

      Thank you for sharing your very positive view. Yes, I think the veteran actors have mastered the characterization well, and, who doesn’t love a fine resolution at the end of a movie. You’ve put it together succinctly. Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comment! Hope to hear from you again. 😉


  17. Finally saw the movie yesterday with my daughters and mother – I loved it! Appreciate your review even more now and wouldn’t mind going back to see it again with my husband. We’re having a ‘movie week’ with The Makioka Sisters and The Descendants up next.


    1. JoAnn,

      Thanks for coming back and sharing. Hope you like The Makioka Sisters too… and maybe write a post on it comparing the book (?)


  18. Hi, Arti:

    It’s far too long since I’ve visited your blog, so I was grateful for a little nudge from our dear Yinling918 who knew how eagerly I was awaiting the release of Marigold Hotel — and how much I enjoy your thoughtful and perceptive analyses of books, film, TV, life itself.

    Like you, I was pleased to find that Marigold was so much more than the trailer implied — not a comedy at all really, although it certainly had its funny moments.There was a lot of food for thought in the film — perhaps more for me than for many younger viewers, since I’m not too far from my 70th birthday. It’s an odd stage in life; I find myself so often thinking about what was, what might have been, what might yet be.

    Anyway, I enjoyed the film, although it was not without its flaws. Maybe 20 more minutes (or tighter editing or one less plot line) would have allowed the writers to flesh out the characters a bit more. I wanted more, because I was interested in all of them. Lillete Dubey’s Mrs. Kapoor, for example, seemed so one dimensional, and I found myself doubting that she could ever have been a Sunaina in her own youth.

    Nonetheless,the extraordinarily skilled cast was such a treat to watch, and though I wished they had had a commensurate script to work with, I am so grateful they signed on for this film. It was a rare treat in a summer of battleships and vampires and PG-13 action films aimed at 13 year old boys — although I confess to clapping out loud for The Avengers :o)



    1. Jay,

      Welcome back! Your thoughtful comment is always a pleasure to read and great supplement to any of my posts. I totally agree with you that the film seems a bit hasty at the end, I’d like to see more depth in the resolution and character development as well. And of course, with so many characters and their interesting story lines (including Dev Patel and his girlfriend vs. mom loyalty), 124 mins. are just not enough. However, the excellent performances just save the day I think, and the actors’ sincerity is so appealing that I’m inclined to be lenient. Maybe seeing the change in Maggie Smith’s character makes me subconsciously try not to be like her previous self. 😉 Despite its flaws, it has captivated me even from the very start. Do check out some of the other ripples in the comment section. They make an interesting read. Again, thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your view, Jay!


  19. I agree! I think the actors had a lot of fun with this film. After watching the trailer, I was surprised at the depth; it was certainly funny but there really were some things to think about.


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