Monday, May 7, 2012

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2012)

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a British-made comedy-drama by director John Madden, famous for the largely adored Shakespeare in Love. We follow seven British retirees as they travel to India for one reason or another, headed to the hotel that gives the film its title. Upon arrival, they discover that the hotel is far less luxurious than advertised, and their experiences transform them all in one way or another.

The film has a rather prestigious cast, with Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Penelope Wilton, and the less famous Ronald Pickup and Celia Imrie taking the main roles, along with Dev Patel. The acting is, as you would imagine, about as good as the script would allow for. Unfortunately, the script really doesn’t allow for all that much, as there really isn’t all that much that happens throughout this film.

The characters are a bit of a mixed bag. Judi Dench is the narrator, and her character has the most interaction with the rest of the cast, but ultimately her story arc is less about her and more about fulfilling particular roles in the arcs of other characters. Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilkinson play a couple who have lost all their savings through investing in their daughter’s failed website and need an affordable place to stay. Bill Nighy quickly becomes fascinated by India, as we see him returning from numerous temples and what not (unfortunately, we are never given the opportunity to follow him), while his wife, who is a total bitch, may I add, just wants to go back home. Bill Nighy quickly becomes the most likeable person in the film, as he is the only person who truly seems to be enjoying himself. Tom Wilkinson plays a high court judge who seems to know his way around and who has returned to India for a reason he doesn’t exactly want his new friends to know about. His story is by far the most interesting, and is honestly the only one that was particularly original at all.  Ronald Pickup (whose name fits his character very well) and Celia Imrie both play more or less the same character. They are both having difficulty facing their old age and are looking for new adventures, particularly sexual ones.

The final elderly character, played by Maggie Smith is a completely despicable old woman. She requires an immediate hip replacement and is flown to India for it, as the waiting time in England is too long. The problem with her character is that she is completely racist, yet is portrayed by the film as a likeable character. The constant racist comments are intended by the film makers to be humourous, but Smith says them in a resentful, intent manner. Now, I’m fine with them putting a racist character in the movie, and I’m okay with racist humour, as long as it’s not taken seriously, but to have her be someone that we are supposed to enjoy listening to, and to some degree, even agree with is a different story. I wouldn’t even mind so much if the film had a racist message, even if I wouldn’t agree with it, but ultimately these characters are changed (mostly for the better) by their experiences IN INDIA! This aspect of the film really infuriated me, which sullied the rest of the film to some extent.

The last of the main characters, played by Dev Patel, is the owner of the hotel. He is a young man (maybe 20 years old) and is in love with a very modern Indian girl who works at a call centre. His mother is especially unhappy about this as she wants to arrange a marriage for him and believes in traditional Indian sensibilities. We see him struggle with his love life, family life and his new business, but there aren’t ever any interesting happenings. His story feels as if it’s just going through the motions of any typical struggle and never really finds itself in any creative moments. The dialogue written for him sounds very much like the stereotypical English-speaking Indian trying to sell you things, but has a certain amount of charm that you can’t deny. However, whenever he finds himself in a romantic moment, the dialogue takes a complete turn to being just plain cheesy. It almost seems as if there two different people writing his character.

The cinematography is relatively sub-standard throughout the majority of the film. There were two or three truly beautiful shots, but for the most part, it was nothing to write home about. There were also about five shots where the camera was slightly, but noticeably, out of focus. I don’t think I’ve seen a single film in recent memory where this has been a problem, so this really surprised me.

Another issue I had with the film was that almost all the big plot points in the film were very briefly brushed over, as if they didn’t want them to have the effect they were supposed to. There was only one exception to this rule, and luckily it was the most effective and emotionally powerful story in the whole film. There is also a scene near the end of a film where we learn something about a particular character that is meant to make us forgive them for their actions throughout the movie, but all it actually does is end up making them a hypocrite.

The humour in the film is of a fairly low quality. There’s not a single joke that will give you anything more than a chuckle, but I must admit that, excepting the aforementioned racist jokes (if we can call them jokes), I was laughing consistently whenever there was something to laugh at.

The ending of the film felt, for the most part, uninspired, unlikely, and artificial. It made very little sense for some of the characters to change the way they did and make the decisions that they did. I really only cared about one of the eight-or-so story arcs, and liked only two of the characters. Ultimately, I left the film feeling unsatisfied and slightly angered. Of course, I have to admit that I am by no means part of the demographic this film is targeting, but the vast majority of flaws in the film are fundamental ones that have nothing to do with the audience’s interests, beliefs, sense of humour, or whatever.

Don't forget to catch me on my friend's podcast, of which I am a regular member, here!

No comments:

Post a Comment