‘This comedy of OAP redemption could never have been as terrible as I’d anticipated: the reality turns out to be merely awful…’
(Independent – New releases)
A chronically mixed bag … The masterstroke is getting this cast together. You could have them reading the assembly instructions for flat pack furniture & it would still work… I just wish it didn’t remind me quite so much of ‘It Ain’t Half Hot Mum.’
(Danny Leigh – Film 2012)
‘…it’s lively, colourful and very entertaining.’
(Henry Fitzherbert – Express.co.uk
It’s been subject to mixed reviews, a number of them far from enthusiastic, but I will own up, here and now, to thoroughly enjoying, ‘Shakespeare in Love’ director, John Madden’s latest offering. There, that’s better, I’ve done it.
Danny Leigh, Claudia Winkleman’s ‘Film 2012’ sidekick was particularly condescending in last week’s show, claiming the producers had been rather canny in targeting this film at the ‘grey pound’. That is to say, he explained, a film for marginalised seniors – you know the type, they venture out to the cinema once a year, and probably the last thing they saw was ‘The King’s Speech’.
Did I detect, just a hint of, ageism, in his comments?
I suppose it must be difficult for a young, cutting edge, critic to admit to enjoying a film about a motley crew of sixty-somethings, without losing a bit of street-cred!
But of course, the delightful Claudia found it ‘adorable’ and the user reviews on the Worcester Vue website tended to agree with her. The comments I read were, without exception, complimentary and the film currently averages a 5* rating.
The vibrant Indian city of Jaipur provides the colourful backdrop for this tale about a group of ageing Brits, lured to ‘The Exotic Marigold Hotel’ – an alternative retirement home for those in their autumnal years.
The story based, on a novel, ‘These Foolish Things’, by Deborah Moggach, is full of gentle humour, pathos, and not a little optimism, for those in their twilight years, that life need not end with retirement.
The cast, drawn from the great and good of British cinema – national treasures in their prime, portray an array of characters setting out on their Indian adventure for a variety of reasons, and with very different agendas:
Judi Dench: recently widowed, lonely, unfulfilled, and homeless – having sold up to pay off a mountain of debts left by her dead husband.
Tom Wilkinson: a retired high court judge, gay, well, ‘in theory rather than practice’ at this stage in his life, returning, after forty years, to the city of his youth, in search of an abandoned first love.
Maggie Smith: a racist bigot (at least, initially) with a penchant for ‘Hobnobs’. Without family, having devoted her life in service, she’s only out there for a cheap, fast, hip replacement.
Bill Nighy and Penelope Wilton: approaching forty years in a stale marriage, he downtrodden, she bitter and harbouring ideas above her station, attempting to eke out their miserable civil service pension.
Ronald Pickup: desperate for one final fling, an old dog out to learn a few new tricks, with the aid of his pocket edition ‘Kama Sutra’, and locally sourced Viagra.
Celia Imrie: (formerly a calendar girl, dinner lady and overwrought owner of ‘Acorn Antiques’) – a fading sixties swinger, turned gold digger, searching for a little romance, with plenty of money attached.
It’s pretty difficult not to enjoy a couple of hours in the company of such an illustrious line-up. Predictably enough, they all turn in sympathetic, largely believable performances, which isn’t to say the storyline isn’t without the odd unlikely contrivance and character change – but these are somehow in keeping with the nature of the piece.
Dev Patel (Jamal Malik – in Danny Boyle’s ‘Slumdog Millionaire’) plays Sonny, a young, excitable, eternally optimistic hotel owner. Big on ideas, but low on business sense, and a disappointment to his controlling ‘Mummaji’, he is determined to show that he can make a success of things, and that his bright, thoroughly modern, girlfriend from the local call-centre is worthy of her approval.
‘The Exotic Marigold Hotel’, with its extremely faded grandeur, not surprisingly, fails to live up to its over the top billing as a luxurious retreat ‘for the elderly and beautiful’. Dodgy plumbing, a broken telephone system, nesting birds – in one of the rooms, a missing bedroom door, and an iffy roast goat curry all come into play.
It isn’t a film without the odd stereotype and cliché, and there is undoubtedly a degree of predictability about the way things turn out. This is echoed in Sonny’s reassuring catchphrase, ‘Everything will be alright in the end. And if it’s not alright, it’s not the end’ – a philosophy I rather like!
Okay, it’s easy viewing and cheesy in parts, but a film infused with understated humour, touching poignancy and an over-riding feel-good factor. Surely there’s nothing wrong with that, once in a while!