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Review: 'The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel'

British retirees Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy and Tom Wilkinson seek a new life in India

    
Director: John Madden
Rating PG-13. Running Time: 124 minutes
Stars: Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson, Maggie Smith

En español  |  There comes a time, dear grownup moviegoer, when you must put your money where your demographic is and get yourself down to the multiplex in support of a film made just for you — and not in a pandering way, but in a heart-and-soul, we-know-you, here’s-what-you’re-feeling kind of way.

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The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel gets immediate points for gathering at least four of the 10 best 50-plus actors in the movies (Judi Dench, Bill Nighy, Tom Wilkinson and Maggie Smith) under one tiled roof.

They play British retirees of differing backgrounds who have all pulled up stakes and moved to colorful, crowded Jaipur, India — expecting to find golden years happiness in what the brochures promised would be a luxurious (but low-cost) grande dame hotel.

What they find, however, is a sadly decrepit shell of a place where the phones don’t work, throngs of noisy people and sputtering vehicles swarm outside, and the food is not exactly what they’re serving at Claridge’s these days. For most of them, this isn’t just leaving their comfort zone — it’s more like entering the Twilight Zone.

Judi Dench as “Evelyn” and Celia Imrie as “Madge” in THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL.

Judi Dench as Evelyn and Celia Imrie as Madge in 'The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.' — Ishika Mohan/Courtesy Fox Searchlight Pictures

Yes, it’s a frankly outrageous setup, and the characters fall into rather predictable roles, but The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel still manages to mine stark truths about what it means to grow older in a world that is (literally, in this case) passing you by.

Wilkinson’s character, a retired judge, seems to be making the easiest transition — he grew up in India, and his return has been spurred largely by a desire to set right some unfinished business from his youth. On the other hand, Maggie Smith’s Muriel sees herself as a short-timer — she’s just staying long enough to get a quick hip replacement (back in England she’d have to wait six months). Nighy and Penelope Wilton play a couple that find India positively disorienting, but their responses to the whirl of strange foods and indecipherable language couldn’t be more different. As a newly widowed housewife, Dench provides the film’s center: Her daily blogs, written to her worried children back home, provide the film’s narrative.

Next: Why didn't these retirees follow AARP The Magazine's advice on best international places to retire?

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