A bunch of British old farts travel to India to become old expats in “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel,” a book-based film with a shopworn plot that succeeds in spite of itself, thanks to a bevy of fine actors and the wondrously chaotic color and ambience of the city of Raipur.
Check this cast: Maggie Smith, Billy Nighy, Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Penelope Wilton, Celia Imre and Ronald Pickup.
With that lineup, the script barely matters. And though “Marigold” (based on Deborah Moggach’s novel “These Foolish Things”) is populated with types – Maggie Smith’s grouchy old lady (in India for a faster, cheaper hip replacement), Dench’s recent widow, Wilkinson’s repressed homosexual, Nighty and Wilton’s unhappily married couple, Pickup and Imre single and looking for love – splendid performances lift the predictable script into a lovely little comedy, helped immeasurably by the truly exotic surroundings of bustling Jaipur.
Hotel manager Sonny (Dev Patel) provides the youthful energy of an overly enthusiastic entrepreneur who has exaggerated the hotel’s facilities just a wee tad. His motto is “Everything will be all right in the end. If it’s not all right, then it’s not the end.”
It’s hard to argue with that, or with this cast, which hasn’t a single weak link, nor with John Madden’s direction or the setting. This isn’t a great film, but it’s a delight to watch, and how many films can you say that about?
“We get up in the morning and do our best,” Dench says in voice-over. “Nothing else matters.”
None of us can do better.
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sexual content and language
Studio: Fox Searchlight
Runtime: 124 minutes
San Diego area showings: Landmark Hillcrest, 3965 Fifth Ave.; Landmark La Jolla Village, 8879 Villa La Jolla Drive; Cinepolis Luxury Cinemas, 12905 El Camino Real.
Our rating: 4.0
Directed by: John Madden
Cast: Tom Wilkinson, Maggie Smith, Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Dev Patel, Celia Imrie, Penelope Wilton