The story deals with a number of British retirees (or "pensioners") who, for various reasons, have been lured into moving to India expecting that "The Very Best Exotic Marigold Hotel for the Elderly and Beautiful" will be a comfortable old age alternative to dismal prospects in the homeland, only to find that the property does not live up to the marketing hype put out by the optimistic operator, Sonny (Dev Patel, "Slumdog Millionaire").
The crew of expatriates consists of Judi Dench as Evelyn Greenslade, a recent widow at loose ends; Tom Wilkinson as Graham Dashwood, a retired judge seeking to connect with the India of his youth; Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilton as the Ainsleys, a couple seeking a better life on a barely adequate pension; Maggie Smith as Muriel Donnely, retired Housekeeper, wanting a faster hip replacment than the National Health Service will provide; Celia Imrie as Madge Hardcastle, a still vivacious grandmother fed up with being a live in babysitter; and Ronald Pickup as Norman Cousins, a spry eldery gent still looking for whatever might turn up--preferably female and with a bit of money.
The characters adjust--or not--as their predilictions move them. Evelyn tries making the best of it. Graham immerses himself in hunting his past. Douglas Ainsley is entranced by the life and beauty of Jaipur, but his wife, Jean, is determined to be miserably unhappy and let everyone know it. Muriel isn't intending to stay, but still has a hard time not letting her reflexive xenophobia get out of hand. Meanwhile, Sonny has the financial and familial issues intendant on trying to make a go out of the rundown hotel he inherited, while his brothers are being successful in India's tech industries and his mother's busy arranging him a marriage he doesn't want.
It really is a joy to watch these actors work. They all have wonderful comic delivery while still making the drama real. In particular, Wilton's Jean Ainsly makes you want to sympathise with her and want to slap her at the same time. Nighy as her put-upon husband masterfully portrays a man whose doing his best but just will never be able to satisfy his wife's emotional needs.
There are moments of sadness, moments of sweetness, and moments of sheer silliness, which work out to a delightful combination. Highly recommended.
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