Photo credit: http://www.vlicious.org/2011/12/international-trailer-for-john-maddens.html
I saw this film today at the cinema. I loved it, it is exceptional, and I am awarding it the title of My Film of the Year (always a dangerous thing to do in March!). I first saw Coriolanus in 2011 at the London Film Festival and so this film can happily have my 2012 Film of the Year accolade.
Cut and pasted from the IMDB Website:
THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL follows a group of British retirees who decide to "outsource" their retirement to less expensive and seemingly exotic India. Enticed by advertisements for the newly restored Marigold Hotel and bolstered with visions of a life of leisure, they arrive to find the palace a shell of its former self. Though the new environment is less luxurious than imagined, they are forever transformed by their shared experiences, discovering that life and love can begin again when you let go of the past.
You can see the trailer here:
The quality of this film is shown by the fact that this is the ONLY film that I have seen since I started reviewing where I have taken along my notebook and had my trusty pen to hand but where I have come away from the film with a blank page because I just wanted to sit back, relax, take the film in, and enjoy the experience. That is a first!
What did I like about it?
Firstly, the complexity of each of the characters in the film and the depth and richness of the relationships depicted between the various couplings. This is an ensemble cast film, there is no "lead" actor or couple and the screen time is very equitably shared. That means you are not in the company of one character for very long and the screen time for each character is therefore limited. Despite that, each and every character is a very detailed character study of a unique individual, with all their strengths and weaknesses, foibles and prejudices. I also loved the complexity of the relationships depicted between the various couplings; marriages and relationships were shown with all their darkness and light, warts and all; all the relationships felt real because the pressures on a marriage/relationship, and the faultlines running through a marriage/relationship, were shown honestly and accurately. I really believed that some of the characters had been married for forty years!
I am just going to talk about a couple of the characters that moved me the most, although I could easily write a detailed essay on each character in the piece. Maggie Smith, playing Muriel, starts out as a deeply unsympathetic character, with many "issues", especially around race. However, in two key scenes, which follow one after another, her real humanity and her true nature are revealed, and she reveals her "backstory" to us. That is the game changer. And, once you have heard her story, you will never see her in the same way again. It made me appreciate that you should never ever write anyone off just because you think they are one thing; you should always engage with everyone as a human being; you should afford everyone dignity and respect, a friendly ear and an open heart; and then you will often be surprised by the real person inside.
I just fell in love with Bill Nighy playing Douglas. He really was a truly wonderful person. But he was stuck with Penelope Wilton, playing Jean, who just took him for granted, treated him like rubbish, and could not see, let alone appreciate, the diamond that she had in her possession. I was just willing him to leave her because he deserved so much better than her; I wanted him to have a wife/partner who would be loving and supportive and appreciate and credit him for the wonderful person that he was. Judi Dench, playing Evelyn, was just the person to do this. One of the most powerful scenes in the film for me, was when Douglas tells Jean exactly what he thinks and feels about her; I was really pleased that he finally spoke the truth that was in his heart. And the most moving scenes in the film for me were to watch the budding and blossoming friendship/relationship between Douglas and Evelyn as they start to spend more time with eachother and get to know eachother. I want them to live happily ever after!
Finally, Dev Patel playing Sonny, was a man after my own heart. He taught me the importance of blue skies thinking; believing in and following your dream; and, ultimately, standing up for what you believe in and the person whom you love, even if that means challenging what your family and community may think and believe to be right. This is a hard road to follow (believe me I should know!) but one that, if you stick with it, will reward you very richly. It is a path I have chosen in the past, and would chose to take again in the future; it is the only path worth following.
The film really captures the beauty of India - the chaos, the colours, the sounds, the smells, the hustle and bustle, the deep contrasts, just everything. It was a real joy to see the English abroad, starting out like fish out of water, but slowly and surely adapting to their new environment; initially just making the best of things but realising, as time goes on, that there is so much there for the taking if you just open your eyes and your heart.
And to finish, I loved the joy and the optimism that ran right the way through the film and the upbeat ending of the film; most characters end up happier at the end of the experience than they were at the start. The film also shows the resilience of the human spirit and its ability to overcome all the challenges and obstacles in its path if, and only if, you allow it to do so!
In summary, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is my 2012 Film of the Year!
Waiting to embark on their big adventure:
Photo credit: http://ilovethatfilm.blogspot.com/2012/02/best-exotic-marigold-hotel-john-madden.html